Worshiping Justice

Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

Acts 28:1-6

The apostle Paul had been arrested because of false charges against him. After a couple years of being imprisoned for no reason, Paul appealed to Caesar–his legal right as a Roman citizen. However, on the journey from Caesarea to Rome, his ship was mercilessly battered by strong, early winter storms in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Shipwrecked and exhausted, Paul and the other 275 people on board swam to shore on the tiny island of Malta, located just 80 miles south of Sicily, Italy.

The people there were hospitable to the haggard sailors, passengers, and prisoners, building them a fire as they came ashore. Even Paul pitched in to help build the fire. Yet when a venomous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on Paul’s hand, the pagan islanders assumed that it was the work of the goddess of Justice [called Dike (pronounced “dee-kay”) in the Greek pantheon of gods and Justicia in the Roman pantheon of gods].

It’s clear that their understanding of justice was very different than the justice we see implemented by God in the Bible. The activity of the goddess Dike (Justice) was more like a combination of vengeance and karma. If something bad happened to you, then it must be because of some wrong you had done. This kind of thinking is what we find in the modern concept of karma. Only for the ancient Greeks, this kind of karma was the personified vengeance of the goddess Dike.

So when Paul was bitten by a venomous snake after having been shipwrecked, the assumption was that he did something really, really bad (like murder). Justice (the goddess Dike) was getting her revenge on Paul. The only problem was that, as they waited for Paul to die, nothing happened. He suffered no ill effects from the snake bite. So not only was he saved from the Mediterranean storm and shipwreck, but now he was miraculously unaffected by the venomous snake bite.

Because of their warped view of justice, the pendulum now swung completely in the opposite direction. Not only was the goddess Justice not getting revenge, but Paul’s survival could only mean one thing: he was a “god” himself.

In this story I see our own culture’s obsession with “justice” and how misunderstood biblical justice really is. Yes, our God is a God of true justice, but our culture has severely warped any sense of real justice. Instead of worshiping at the feet of a God who delivers biblical justice, our culture bows down to the goddess Dike, the goddess of Justice who favors karma over grace and vengeance over restoration. “Cancel Culture” is the bastard offspring of Dike and her demonic ideology of warped justice.

The Bible is clear that the pantheon of pagan gods were not just fictitious mythologies, but instead were dressed up demonic forces who gained power by having humans worship them.

Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 

1 Corinthians 10:19-20

So the goddess Dike (or Justicia) is a demonic entity that loves to distort proper, biblical justice. The demonic Dike loves to enforce karma and enact vengeance and call it justice. Isn’t our culture, especially “cancel culture,” rife with this warped understanding of justice? And how many hundreds of action movies pretend to seek “justice” for some wrong that was done but are essentially bloodbaths of vengeance. Dike and her demonic minions are running rampant in our culture.

True biblical justice doesn’t come from worshiping Justice herself, but comes as a byproduct of worshiping the One True God, Yahweh, The Lord Jesus Christ. True biblical justice always comes seasoned with grace, redemptive consequences, and restoration. The prophets of the Old Testament regularly called for true justice yet always left room for the return of Israel, the redemptive process of discipline, and the restoration of a people.

Shame, guilt, condemnation, and violence are never the final word when we’re operating in true justice. Instead, they are tools of the demonic goddess Dike and her karmic vengeance. If we worship Justice, we’ll never actually attain true justice. When we build an idol out of anything, including justice, it will inevitably be warped and hijacked by the enemy.

A Girl Tormented

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 

Luke 9:37-39

It happened at a conference, at the end of the evening worship service, when people were invited down front to receive prayer if they needed it. I’ll never forget the scene that unfolded.

At Global Awakening conferences I am what’s called a “Revival Leader.” Among other things, we help serve as the ministry team that stands down front and prays for people when the worship services are over.

On this particular night I had already prayed for physical healing for a couple people and was interviewing a young woman who had redness and sensitivity on the skin of her hands. As I asked about her condition, there was some commotion to my right. I ignored it the best that I could because I wanted to give this young lady and her husband my complete attention. But, just as I began to pray for her hands, the commotion got louder.

There was a young girl on the ground to my right who seemed to be about 12 or 13 years old. She was screaming and growling and writhing as she bicycled her legs and spun in a circle. Four or five adults were around her praying very loudly, and in some cases, yelling. They weren’t yelling at her but at the demonic spirits that they believed were causing the problem. There were also a number of teenagers, who seemed to be from her youth group, circled around her watching this bizarre scene.

As I looked over and assessed the scene, I stopped praying for the young woman’s hands and apologized. I told her that I had to deal with what was happening next to us but that, if she would wait for me, I would come back and continue to pray for her healing. She and her husband agreed.

As I stepped into the chaotic scene to my right, I realized that no one had established control or authority in the situation and no one seemed to really know what to do. In that moment, something rose up inside of me that I can only describe as a holy and righteous anger. Not anger with the people for not knowing what to do, but anger at the enemy for abusing, tormenting, and embarrassing this young girl.

The other thing that I immediately became aware of is that somehow I knew exactly what to do. Because of the intensive prayer ministry at my church, I had encountered demonic spirits and demonic manifestations in people on a semi-regular basis. So, oddly enough, I had a lot of experience with situations like this. But there was also a kind of “knowing” that came from the Holy Spirit in that moment. It was like God knew what needed to happen and He downloaded that information to me in an instant.

The first thing I did was to quickly ask about the girl on the ground and ask how she is connected to the people who were gathered around her. I then told everyone to stop praying and to get their hands off of her. The group quieted down but the girl on the ground was still hissing, writhing, and growling. I knew that we had to get this girl to a more private place where ministry could continue. But before that, I knew I had to establish authority.

I bent down, placed my right hand on her shoulder, and in a commanding, authoritative voice (the kind of voice you would used if you saw your young child about to run out into the road) I said, “STOP!” I was not speaking to the girl or the people around her. I was speaking to the demons who were manifesting and controlling her movements.

I followed this, in the same authoritative tone, by saying, “Stop it right now!” And they did. The demons knew I was speaking to them with the authority of the name of Jesus. All the girl’s movements on the ground stopped.

I stayed kneeling down next to the girl and, using her first name, called to her. It is important in these situations to get the person to regain control of their voice and body. I kept calling to the girl and inviting her to regain control of herself. Slowly the look in her eyes changed and she regained control of her body. The demons were still fighting to reestablish authority, so I knew they weren’t gone, but the girl was finally able to sit up on her own.

Now, in a gentle voice, I began to speak directly to the girl. I told her that she was going to be okay. The look of confusion and fear in her eyes told me that she didn’t understand what had just happened to her. I continued to lovingly encourage her and let her know that she was okay and that she was safe. With the help of her youth leaders, we got her on her feet. I directed them to take her to the back of the conference room so that she could receive more private and personal prayer ministry.

As the girl walked away with the help of her leaders, a few of the adults and teens looked at me confused. Finally, one of the adults in the group, with more than a hint of indignation in her voice, said, “Why are you sending her away? Why aren’t you praying for her? Why aren’t you helping her get free?”

I nodded my head because I understood where the question was coming from. They wanted me to cast those demons out right there and, in their view, all I did was send her away. But that’s not what was really happening. So I explained, “The enemy loves to draw attention to himself. And he loves to embarrass people. I didn’t want to give the enemy any more attention, and I didn’t want her to be embarrassed anymore in front of this whole crowd. She will continue to receive prayer, but it will be in the back where there is more privacy and where we can protect her dignity.”

At that, another adult in the group responded, “Ohhh, I see. Yeah… That’s really wise.” Then the group dispersed and I went back to praying for the young woman with the skin condition on her hands. Later that night, my fellow Revival Leaders and I made sure that the young girl got private and personal prayer ministry from one of the conference speakers.

Sometimes I’ve wondered why the Lord has given me so much experience casting out demons. It’s such a strange thing in our American culture to have experience with. But in that moment, I was grateful for all the experience that the Lord has given me. I was grateful that, somehow, I knew exactly what to do. I was grateful that the Lord used me to bring order to the chaos and restore dignity to a young girl. I still have so much to learn. SO. MUCH. TO. LEARN. But it’s encouraging when what you have learned gets put into practice and ends up helping someone in need.

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

Matthew 10:7-8

Labeling a Word from the Lord

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Acts 16:6-10

I was talking to a friend the other day about hearing God speak to us. This person asked me, “What is the purpose of labeling what we hear from God with names that come from the charismatic stream like “word of knowledge” or “prophetic word,” etc.? Can’t we ditch the labels?” It’s an important question that I want to unpack here.

First, Jesus is clear that God does speak to us and that we can hear Him (we’re not talking about audible voice here). We see this throughout the Bible.

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 

John 10:2-4, 27

God can communicate with us through scripture, mental or emotional impressions, thoughts that are not our own (still, small voice), mental images, dreams, visions, patterns, life-circumstances, etc. And He most often does this through the Holy Spirit.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14:26

Of course everything the Spirit says to us will align with the principles and truths of scripture. Anything outside of that is not from God. But in order to grow as a disciple of Jesus, we have to grow in our ability to hear and obey.

Traditions of the church that are not from the charismatic stream of Christianity hesitate to call this kind of direction communication from the Lord “revelation” because they don’t want to put it on par with scripture. And this is a good impulse. Even the charismatic stream makes a strong distinction between the authoritative revelation of scripture and the personal communication that comes from the Lord speaking directly to us. Scripture is what holds ultimate authority. Everything else from the Lord is more personal, subjective communication and must submit to scripture.

Traditions of the church that are not from the charismatic stream are also more comfortable with phrases like, “I got an impression from the Lord,” or “I felt prompted by the Lord,” or “I felt led by the Lord to…“, rather than saying things like, “I got a prophetic word,” or “I felt like I got a word of knowledge.” These terms that are often seen as “charismatic labels” simply come from language that the apostle Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 as he lists what are sometimes called the “supernatural gifts of the Spirit.”

But, as to our original question, why use these labels anyway if they can sometimes cause people to be skeptical or wary? There are a few reasons:

  1. First, sometimes it is best not to use these labels. If we can get our point across by saying “promptings of the Spirit” or “impression from the Lord” then we should do that. No need to overcomplicate things.
  2. The labels exist because they speak to the reality that prophecy, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and discerning the spirits all serve different functions. While they are all direct communication from the Lord, they accomplish different purposes. Mixing them up can be harmful. Let’s be clear about definitions:
    • A word of knowledge is when the Lord downloads a small bit of information about a person or situation to us through the Spirit. This gift is often a “door-opener” that can lead into physical healing, a prophetic word, or evangelism.
    • A word of wisdom is when the Lord downloads a small bit of His wisdom to us, usually in the form of advice or direction, about a person or situation. I believe many leaders of organizations and counselors get these and don’t know they are coming from the Lord.
    • Discerning the spirits is a diagnostic tool informing us about the human spirit (people’s motivations and desires), heavenly spirits (movements of the Holy Spirit or the angelic), and/or demonic spirits (how the enemy is attacking or manipulating a person or situation). This gift often diagnoses the problem.
    • Prophecy is hearing God’s heart for a person or situation (usually future-oriented, calling out a person’s real identity, how God sees them, or where God is taking them). Prophecy declares God’s word over a person or situation, which often has the power to bring about God’s purposes for that person or situation. If discerning the spirits diagnoses the problem, prophecy speaks to the solution.
  3. Because each of these forms of direction communication is essentially its own gift, they need to be responded to differently. Sharing information with people about themselves that we received supernaturally (a word of knowledge) can become just a parlor trick unless it has purpose (usually in the form of prayer for healing, a prophetic word, or evangelism). Discerning the spirits can help us diagnose the problem but we don’t prophesy the problem over people. We prophesy the solution. So, understanding what kind of communication we are getting from the Lord is just as important as the ability to receive that communication.

Unpacking these labels is really important for discipleship. Every follower of Jesus needs to know how to hear from the Lord and receive direction communication from the Holy Spirit. We also need to grow in our understanding of what to do with that word once we receive it.

Sometimes God’s direct communication is just for our own strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. Sometimes we get a word for someone else. Church leaders need to be training their people in knowing what to do when we get a word for someone else and how to deliver that word with care, wisdom, and love.

Words on a Plane

But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort…

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy…

1 Corinthians 14:3, 39

I sat down in my seat for my flight home from Texas. Missy would stay in Texas for a few extra days for a girl’s trip. The kids where already home with my parents awaiting my return. I’m not often by myself on a plane so this was a good chance to stretch my faith a little and see what God would do.

I sat in an aisle seat in a row with one guy already at the window seat. He was a young, African-American guy, maybe in his twenties. He had a durag on with a hoodie pulled over that. He had earbuds in listening to music from his phone and a mask on his face (though masks were optional on this flight). He had sweatpants on and slide-ons on his feet. His socks were some sort of cartoonish design. His posture gave the over all message, “Leave me alone.”

As more and more people filled the cabin, and seats were running low (this was a Southwest flight where you chose your own seat), a young woman decided to claim the center seat in our row. She looked to be in her twenties as well, fashionably dressed, and either Puerto Rican or mixed race. She had a lot of make up on but it was well done. Her nails too. She had one of those looks that could be confused with a number of different ethnicities.

We all settled in and I decided to tilt my head back onto the headrest, close my eyes, and begin to pray. I began with some prayers of gratitude and praise. Then I shifted into asking the Lord what I have asked Him a hundred different times when praying for people, “Lord, how do you see him/her?”

In my estimation, if this question works in church environments it should work everywhere. Meaning, if I can practice hearing what the Lord says about fellow Christians that I pray for in church, then I should also be able to hear what He says about the people around me in daily life. For some reason, the latter seems to demand more faith from me than the former.

As I began listening, I started with the African-American guy in the widow seat. The first thing I heard (“heard” meaning: a conversational thought that came to my mind that seemed not to be my own) was, “His IQ is very high, much higher than the people around him.” I don’t know what I was expecting God to say about him, but that definitely wasn’t it. Then I saw a picture in my mind’s eye of him at a computer. It seemed like he was playing video games on his computer but based on the first word, it could have been him doing programing or something. I wasn’t sure.

Feeling bolstered by what I heard for the guy by the window, I asked about the girl next to me in the center seat. I got a picture of her with children. She was helping them in some way. Then I heard, “She is good with kids. She helps kids who are forgotten and on the margins. She’s good with kids because she wasn’t allowed to have much of a childhood.”

This was all going so well, but I wasn’t sure any of it was accurate and I wasn’t sure when or how I would share these words with these people. I prayed for an opportunity to share and the courage to step out in faith.

I also asked about the lady across the center aisle from me who was sitting in the aisle seat directly next to mine. She was a heavyset hispanic lady that looked closer to my age. In my mind’s eye I saw a picture of her cooking tons of food for a big family. Nothing about her necessarily signaled that she was a mother, but it was as if she brought her family joy and connection through her cooking. Maybe a grandmother? I didn’t know.

The final word came for the lady sitting diagonally across the aisle from me in the seat in front of the hispanic lady. She was a well put together white lady in a business suit. I wondered if she had flown somewhere for business. The only thing I heard for her was, “The business deal will go through. It will work.” I had no idea what this meant or even if she was a business person. She could have been a teacher for all I knew. It’s just what I felt like I heard from the Lord.

I held on to these words waiting for opportunities to share them. After an hour, I was still waiting. It wasn’t until the girl next to me needed to get up and go to the bathroom that I felt like there was an opening.

After she left, I mustered up the courage to tap the guy in the window seat on the arm. He looked up surprised and took one of his earbuds out. I greeted him and explained that sometimes I’ll pray for people around me and ask God how He sees them. Then I asked, “Do you want to know what I heard Him say about you?” Still a little confused, he said that he did.

I said, “I heard the Lord say that your IQ is really high and that it is higher than the people around you. Then I saw a picture of you on a computer either programming or playing video games. Are you a computer programer or something?” He said, “No. But I do play a lot of video games.” I nodded, “Oh, okay, I must have mixed that up a little. Can I ask what you do?” He replied, “I’m going to be a doctor. I’m finishing up med school to be a radiologist.” Laughing I said, “Oh wow, that must be the whole thing with your IQ. I just want you to know that God has given you your intelligence as a gift and he wants you to use it for good. And it sounds like you already are!”

He thanked me for praying for him and asked about me. I shared that I was a pastor. He asked a few questions about my church just as the girl from our row returned from the bathroom. That seemed to go well and gave me a little more courage to try out the other words.

The plane landed and parked at the jetway. I stood up to stretch my legs as people prepared to leave the plane. I didn’t want the girl next to me to leave before giving her the word. So I decided just to jump in and explain to her that sometimes I pray and ask God how He sees the people around me. I asked her if she wanted to know what I heard God say about her. She looked very skeptical. And with more than a little attitude she said, “Sure.”

Unexpectedly, the guy next to the window chimed in and said, “He did the same for me. And he was right. Trust me, it will be good.” Now I was the one a little shocked. This guy who I just met was helping me out. So cool. The girl confirmed again that she wanted to hear what I had to say.

I said, “I heard the Lord say that you’re really good with kids. I saw a picture of you helping kids who had been forgotten and on the margins. He said you are good with kids because you weren’t given the chance to have much of a childhood.” Still looking skeptical, she nodded and said, “Okay?” She seemed to be processing it all and not knowing what to do with it.

I asked, “Can I ask you what you do?” She said, “I’m a nurse.” Pointing to the guy next to the window I said, “Oh great, he’s a doctor.” Surprised, she turned and had a short conversation with him about what he was doing in medicine. She then turned back to me and said, “Yeah, I’m a travel nurse but I used to work in pediatrics.”

This was a gracious lifeline to me. She could have left that detail out, but she decided to throw me a bone. I was so encouraged by this little detail because it meant that I wasn’t totally off in hearing the Lord. I said, “Oh wow, so you are good with kids, and probably some of those kids were really struggling.” She nodded in agreement. I said, “Well, maybe God will give you an opportunity to return to pediatrics. Clearly, you are really good with kids and God loves that about you.” She was still reserved in her response and didn’t seem totally convinced, but I considered that conversation a win.

We were all getting off the plane before I could deliver the other two words to the other two ladies. But then I noticed that the heavyset hispanic lady was walking right beside me as we entered the airport terminal. I tried my best to give a quick, 30-second summary of how I listen to the Lord and that, for her, I got a word about her cooking for her family. She looked a little freaked out and nodded in a way that said, “Please leave me alone.” Ha! She quickly darted in the the women’s restroom before any conversation could happen, and I was off to baggage claim. I never caught up with the lady in the business suit.

Two out of four ain’t bad. But it confirmed to me that God has thoughts about every person on the planet (read Psalm 139:17-18). He knows us intimately and in the most detailed ways. His heart posture toward us is love, not condemnation.

As followers of Jesus, not only is God willing to share his thoughts through the Holy Spirit (read 1 Corinthians 2:9-13), but He is willing to share his feelings as well. When God gives me words about people, I find that I can’t help but love them in that moment. It’s like God’s love is so big that the residue of His love sticks to every prophetic word He gives. Each word is just a fragment of all the thoughts He has for that person, and each one carries a tiny fragment of His love with it. As His word for them flows through me, the residue of His love for them rubs off on me and changes my heart for them.

Prophetic words weren’t designed to come as raw data. They were meant to come wrapped in His love. They are a kind of incarnation. The word becomes flesh, even on a plane.

A Word for A Stylist

When I pray for people at church, I often ask the Lord how He sees the person I’m praying for, I listen, then I share what I hear the Spirit put on my heart or an image that comes to mind. But these kind of prophetic words aren’t just meant for inside the walls of the church. So I do this same exercise in listening when I interact with people throughout the day.

For instance, I’ve made it a practice to ask the Lord how He sees the person who is about to cut my hair. I go to one of those places where I have a new hairstylist just about every time. Here’s what I heard the Lord say yesterday when I got my hair cut.

Usually, my stylist is a woman. Yesterday it was a heavily-tatooed African-American man. I asked the Lord, “How do you see him?” Here’s what I heard, “He’s an artist but he grew up in an environment that didn’t appreciate art. He’s creative like me.” (When I say, “Here’s what I heard…”, I don’t mean the audible voice of God. I mean a conversational thought goes through my mind–a still, small voice–that I recognize as not my own.)

A few seconds later I mustered up the courage to start a conversation with him by saying, “So what other kinds of art do you do?” He looked shocked and said, “What makes you think I do art? How do you know I do art?” Instead of telling him the real answer just yet, I told him I assumed because of his tatoos that he was an artist. He told me he paints and draws and wishes he could do more with his art. We then had a conversation about art and artists. I said to him (based on the other part of the word from the Lord), “You probably didn’t have people around you who really appreciated art, did you?” He confirmed.

Later, when he was shampooing my hair, I heard the Lord say, “His mom is a praying woman.” When the Lord speaks to you, He often wants you to do something with it. Since I heard the first word correctly, I knew the Lord was asking me to step out and take another risk with this second word. After I mustered up the courage, I asked, “Is your mom a praying woman?” He said, “Ohhh yeah. She definitely is.” Then I said, “She’s a church lady, huh?” He opened up a little, “She very much is. But I’m not fully convinced.”

That’s when I decided to let the cat out of the bag. I told him I was a pastor and that I usually prayed for whomever cut my hair. I told him how I would ask God how he saw the person and then try to listen.

He asked, “What did He say about me?” I told him, “God said you were an artist but you didn’t grow up in an environment that appreciates art. That’s why I originally asked you about your art. God also told me your mom was a praying woman. I want you to know that God gave you that creativity. He loves that about you. You’re creative like He’s creative.”

After that we exchanged some small talk about my church and about his vacation coming up. But I hope that he has a better picture of how God sees him. God loves him and is for him. God created him uniquely and with purpose. I hope that he got a glimpse of how God sees him through the gift of prophecy. Prophetic words aren’t about “thus saith the Lord.” They are about revealing the heart of the Father to a world who needs to know how much they are loved.

Apostolic Leaders

And he (Christ) himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ…

Ephesians 4:11-12

Some people say that there are no longer apostles today. And if by that they mean the 12 apostles (Matthew 10:2-4) who were the first 12 disciples, then they are correct. (Really Matthias should be swapped out for Judas Iscariot – see Acts 1:13 & 26) Typically this view understands the apostolic role mainly as those who wrote scripture, and in order to protect the authority and canonization of scripture, the claim is that apostles were exclusive to the first 12 or at least to the first century church.

But there are many problems with this view. The first glaring issues is that there were many people named as apostles in the New Testament (at least 20). Most of these people did not write works found in the scriptures.

Barnabas and Paul were considered apostles (Acts 14:14). Andronicus and Junia (a woman) were listed as outstanding among the apostles (Romans 16:7). Paul calls Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy apostles along with himself (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:4-6). Paul also calls Apollos an apostle along with himself (1 Cor 4:6-9). Apparently, James the half-brother of Jesus was considered an apostle (Galatians 1:19). It’s also possible Epaphroditus was considered an apostle if the Greek word apostolon in Philippians 2:25 is translated as “apostle” instead of “messenger.” 

So it is clear that the title and role of “apostle” extended well beyond the first 12 apostles. While we can acknowledge that the canon of scripture is closed and that the first 12 apostles had a unique role in church history, we must also acknowledge that “apostle” must have been a role that was open to many who fit the description.

This is why I believe the apostolic role was always meant to be a normal leadership role in the church today (similar to what the early church eventually called “bishop”). This lines up with what we read in Ephesians 4:11 as Paul lists the different leadership roles or leadership anointings that exist in the church. 

Some ministers will carry an anointing for pastoring/shepherding and others for evangelism or teaching. Though we tend to call all church leaders “pastors,” we’ve all felt our pastors lean in one direction or another based on the gifting and anointing on their life. And the same is true for the prophetic and the apostolic. Some of our “pastors” actually have the anointing for the apostolic role. I have a few different pastor friends who aren’t just shepherds or teachers. They have been gifted with an apostolic anointing.

Based on what we see in the New Testament, throughout church history, and in the church today, the apostolic role brings with it certain characteristics. The apostolic leadership role typically means a person is over a grouping or network of churches or at least has influence of some kind over more than one church. The apostolic also seems to specialize in taking new territory in some way for the Kingdom of God (whether that means starting non-profits, planting churches, launching businesses, or advancing the Kingdom in a particular sector of society).

Finally, signs, wonders and miracles are often involved in apostolic ministry. People are healed, demons are cast out, and prophetic words seem to flow easily around the apostolic. After being around someone with an apostolic anointing, we will find that the fire of the Holy Spirit has usually been fanned into flame. Often, new gifts of the Spirit are released or existing gifts are set ablaze.

So, are there apostles today?

Well, it is true that the first 12 apostles had a unique role and purpose in church history. That will never again be repeated. However, if we’re talking about the apostolic role and apostolic anointing in general, and if we use the definition and descriptions that I’ve laid out above, then the answer is “Yes.”

There are many in the church today who function with an apostolic anointing and who could rightly be called “apostle” just as we call other ministers “evangelist” or “teacher” or “pastor.” The irony is that those most qualified to be called “apostle” generally don’t use that term to describe themselves. This is, in part, due to enduring humbling opposition similar to what Paul had to face in regard to defending his own apostleship (see 2 Corinthians 11 & Galatians 1 and 2).

One final note: it’s important to state here that there is no such thing as a legitimate “self-appointed” apostle, just as there shouldn’t be any “self-appointed” pastors, teachers, or evangelists. People in these roles should first be affirmed by a community of people who recognize the calling and anointing on someone’s life for this particular role in ministry. And there should be healthy accountability structures in place for anyone serving in any ministry role. The purpose of all of these leadership roles and leadership anointings is not for self-promotion but to build up the body of Christ and equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Tremble

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.

Psalm 96:8-9

Throughout the Psalms, and the Bible in general, we see that a normal response to the tangible Presence of God is to tremble. When theophanies happen in the Old Testament, people often tremble in the presence of God.

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Exodus 19:16-17

We get the sense that in a face-to-face encounter with the fullness of the living God, our bodies can’t handle all the power, our sin can’t handle all the holiness, our eyes can’t handle all the light, our hearts can’t handle all the love. The healthy and reverent fear of the Lord hits people and they begin to tremble. We might call this trembling a “physical manifestation of fear” or a “physical manifestation of being emotionally overwhelmed.”

I grew up in a Baptist church where we used to sing a hymn that spoke to this reality. It was called “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”

 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Stanzas 1 & 2

All of this got me thinking about trembling as a “physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit.” To clarify, this is different from trembling that is a “physical manifestation of being emotionally overwhelmed” (although emotions may accompany it). When the Holy Spirit causes the physical manifestation, it is not showing up in our body because of our emotions. While emotions may be a part of the experience, physical manifestations of the Spirit are when the Holy Spirit himself causes our body to react to an increase of his tangible presence. And while our bodies can react in a number of different ways, trembling is a common one.

Both Jonathan Edwards, in the First Great Awakening (1730s), and John Wesley, in the Second Great Awakening (1790s), recorded the phenomenon of people trembling under the power of the Holy Spirit. In subsequent revivals (Azuza Street in the early 1900s, Charismatic renewal in the 1960s, Toronto and Brownsville in at the 1990s) the experience of people trembling under the power of the Holy Spirit was very common. While this reaction of trembling has been recorded by historians in nearly every revival, it sometimes gets explained away with accusations of some combination of groupthink and mass hysteria.

Yet, these simplistic dismissals can’t account for the wide rage of personal experiences that people have had with the Holy Spirit. How do they account for people continuing to experience these physical manifestations of the Spirit while they are alone in the privacy of their own prayer time with the Lord? How do they account for their regularity? How do they account for people with no prior religious experience experiencing these physical manifestations despite not wanting them and even being skeptical of them? There is too much personal and historical evidence that one of the physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit is the phenomenon of trembling.

What’s fascinating to think about is that while people who experienced trembling were not necessarily experiencing a theophany in the traditional sense–they weren’t face to face with the living God–their bodies were reacting as if they were. It’s as if their bodies were picking up on the reality of the tangible Presence of God in a way that their eyes weren’t. What if their bodies were responding appropriately to God’s tangible Presence even when their mind wasn’t able to?

Have you ever had a moment where your heart was ahead of your mind? Your heart picked up on something and tears began to flow but your head was still unaware of what was going on. You were crying but you weren’t sure what you were crying about yet. Your heart was ahead of your head. Only later, upon further reflection, did your mind begin to understand what your heart already knew. Has that ever happened to you?

I suspect the physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit that happen to our bodies, like trembling, are versions of this. It’s like our spirit and our body picks up on God’s Presence in a way that our mind hasn’t yet. Our body and spirit are ahead of our mind. Only later does our mind make sense of it. And this completely makes sense when we begin to recognize the truth that we have the Spirit of God actually dwelling in us. When the Spirit within us connects with the Spirit falling upon us, our body will react to that powerful connection often before our mind can catch up.

We may begin trembling in a way that is beyond our control. If this happens to us, we shouldn’t fight it as if there is something wrong with our body. Quite the opposite. Maybe our body is actually responding appropriately. Maybe it’s the rest of us that has to catch up. We’re experiencing the profound Presence of God in our midst, and maybe whatever walls may be up in our heart and mind need to come down so that they too can join in on the moment.

Intensive Prayer Sessions

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-24

At our church we have an intensive prayer ministry where one can schedule a 2-3 hour prayer session with our prayer team members. These sessions are all about a person taking the next step in being sanctified “through and through” in their “spirit, soul and body.” We use an integrated approach because we try to address the whole person. It’s also an integrated approach because we as prayer ministers try to use every spiritual gift and tool available to us in order to help the person we are praying for. Our goal is: 1) that they feel loved (by us and by the Father) and, 2) that they walk away more free than they walked in. If we do those two things, we’ve been successful.

In order for a person to feel loved by us, we have to operate with care and compassion. We employ the supernatural gifts of the Spirit (listed in 1 Corinthians 12) and we do so in ways that are careful and kind.

In order for a person to feel loved by the Father, we must facilitate an encounter with the tangible Presence of God. Just knowing, in one’s head, that God loves you is a good first step but is often insufficient in bringing life-change and freedom. As prayer ministers we are responsible for ushering the person into God’s tangible Presence. This means that we move beyond a mere head-knowledge of God’s love into a place where the person actually experiences God’s love. This can show up emotionally as the Spirit touches a person’s heart. It can also show up physically, as they tangibly experience God’s Presence in their body.

In order to facilitate a divine encounter, we must utilize every heavenly resource and every spiritual gift available to us. Practically speaking, this means moving through five major avenues of encounter. These are the five main ways that God puts His love on display and makes His love real for the person receiving prayer.

  1. Prophetic Words: In the morning before we pray for an individual, we ask the Lord, “How do you see this person?” Then we wait and listen to what the Spirit has to say. We write down thoughts and images that come to mind that we sense are not our own. These are words from the Lord or sometimes called “prophetic words.” Listening to the Spirit like this takes practice. But the more you do it, the more accurate you become (as is the case with nearly every other spiritual gift). After a brief orientation, we deliver these words to the person and tell them to “eat the meat; spit out the bones.” In other words, we’ve done our part in listening and telling, now you do your part and discern what is truly from the Lord.
  2. Inner Healing: After we give the prophetic words, we usually move into a time of praying for inner healing. This is when we address things like heart wounds, unforgiveness, harsh words spoken over a person’s life (especially by those in authority), generational sin and curses, fears, sexual brokenness, addictions, etc. These are areas where the enemy likes to attack people. If these are not addressed, they function like open doors and windows in a person’s life allowing the enemy easy access to wreak havoc. Most of our prayer time is spent on these. People experience tremendous release and healing as we pray through these issues.
  3. Deliverance: While inner healing must come first, sometimes we recognize (either through demonic physical manifestations in a person’s body or just through the gift of discerning the spirits) that the enemy has not only attacked a particular part of a person’s life but has actually infiltrated it. Deliverance ministry is when, in the authority of Jesus, we function as police officers commanding demonic spirits “off of” or “out of” a person’s life. If a spirit is simply “attached” to a person (picture a vulture with its talons dug in someone’s back), we command it to get “off” in Jesus’s name. If a spirit has gotten “into” a person (picture a thief hiding out in one room of a person’s house), then we command it to get “out” in Jesus’s name. If a person is heavily demonized, we often see strong physical manifestations occur at this point as the demon never wants to leave. So in its attempts to stay, it causes bodily sensations, bodily pain, or bodily movements. In extreme cases, it will try to take over a person’s face and voice. But, in many cases, demonization is only at the level of “attachment,” and these things simply lift off a person at the name of Jesus.
  4. Physical Healing: We also like to address people’s physical needs during these prayer sessions. There are two kinds of physical ailments that we address. The first is simply a physical illness or injury caused by something natural. In these cases, we pray for Jesus to come and physically heal what is broken. We’ve seen the incredible healing of the Lord get poured out as we prayed and people could feel the sensation of heat while Jesus was healing them.
    The second kind of physical ailment is when the physical illness or injury is caused (or prolonged) by a “spirit of affliction.” These little demonic spirits are assigned to cause people bodily pain or sickness. Once they are cast out, the pain or sickness ends. It’s fairly easy to determine if it is a spirit of affliction causing the problem because, as soon as you start praying for healing, the issue worsens or suddenly moves. I’ve seen neck pain “move” to the shoulder as we prayed and then to the arm. This indicated that it was not a physical cause but a spirit causing the issue. As we commanded it to leave, it went down the arm and out the finger tips.
  5. Impartation: We sometimes (not always) conclude our prayer sessions with impartation. Impartation prayer is when we recognize that the Lord either wants to give this person a brand new gift of the Holy Spirit or He wants to fan into flame what is already there. So as we pray we ask the Lord to freely do in them and give to them what He has freely done in us and given to us. We essentially ask the Holy Spirit to fill this person to overflow, ignite the gifts that exist in them already, and pour out new gifts to them. If this concept is new to you, here are some scripture verses to check out (Matthew 10:8; Numbers 11:16-7, 24-25; Deut 34:9; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).

By the end of these prayer sessions, I’ve seen people radically transformed by an encounter with God. Usually, at least two of the above avenues of encounter end up being really profound for the person to experience. Occasionally, we have people who get profoundly impacted by all five avenues of encounter. Those prayer sessions are really memorable. The person is never the same after that. When we have a tangible encounter with the Lord, it’s nearly impossible to ever be the same again.

Fruit of the Fear of the Lord

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.

Acts 5:3-5

I believe God wants to return the church to the fear of the Lord. But before we could return to the fear of the Lord, we had to learn about the love of the Father. Once we know we are loved completely, then we can have the right heart posture when it comes to the fear, awe, and reverence of the Lord. Fear of the Lord isn’t about being scared of an abusive father. Fear of the Lord is about being in total reverence of an awesome God such that obedience is all we want to do.

And the fear of the Lord brings really good fruit. Ananias lied to the church and to God about his offering. After he dropped to the ground dead, the rest of verse 5 says, “great fear seized all who heard what had happened(Acts 5:5).

Then when his wife Sapphira came in three hours later, she delivered the same lie to the church and to God. After she dropped dead before them all, the Bible says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11).

But fear is bad, right?

Well, some kinds of fear are bad. Certain kinds of fear can be used by the enemy to paralyze us into inaction and disobedience. But this kind of fear, the fear of the Lord, led to really good fruit. Notice the report that happens right after this event.

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 

Acts 5:12-14

When people take a heart posture of awe, reverence, and holy fear of the Lord, God seems to love to move powerfully through that. Something similar happened to the apostle Paul.

Paul was doing “extraordinary” miracles as he saw people healed from illness and delivered from demonic oppression. Some of the Jews who witnessed Paul’s ministry were so impressed that they tried to imitate what he was doing. Though they didn’t believe in Jesus, have a relationship with Him, or have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, they still attempted to use Jesus’s name to cast demons out of people who were demonized.

It didn’t go well.

The demons recognized the name of Jesus, and they even recognized Paul’s name. But the demons saw that these seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were operating outside of the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit. So these seven brothers got completely beat up by the demonized man they were praying for. It was so bad that these seven guys ran out of the house naked and bleeding (see Acts 19:13-16).

The very next lines of scripture are instructive:

When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

Acts 19:17-20

Did you see the fruit of the fear of the Lord?

  1. The name of the Lord was held in high honor.
  2. People began to openly confess and repent of their sin and rebellion.
  3. People left their old way of life that involved the occult and witchcraft.
  4. People were willing to surrender things of tremendous monetary value just to follow Jesus.
  5. The gospel spread widely.
  6. The message of the gospel grew in power.

A couple years ago I had an encounter with the tangible fear of the Lord. It is hard to describe but I try to do so here. It was like the Lord pulled back the curtain and gave me just a taste of the fullness of His Presence, and I was completely undone. God is indescribably awesome, powerful and fearsome. God is love, more than we even know. God is also holy. He isn’t someone to take lightly.

Romans 11:22 advises us to, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God…” The word in the Greek translated here as “sternness” means “severity or sharpness,” like a sheer cliff. You know that feeling you get when you walk to the edge of a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet either to the ocean or to the rocks below? That feeling of awe, wonder, and heart-pounding fear? That’s what the fear of the Lord is like, and we, as the church, need to return to it. If we do, good fruit awaits us there.

Tongues: An Interview

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:27-31

The gift of tongues has caused much controversy in the life of the church. This was true in the first century in Corinth and was part of the reason Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians. He felt compelled to address this issue. It’s also been true of the modern church ever since the Azusa Street revival broke out in 1905. Since then much of the church has been divided over this gift of the Spirit. However, I believe we are entering a new season that is bringing clarity and understanding where previously there was only confusion and misunderstanding.

What follows is a conversation between a Christian who is curious about tongues and their pastor. We’ll name the curious Christian “CC” and the pastor “P.”

CC: My first question is this, “Is the gift of tongues even operating today?” Some traditions of the church don’t believe it is.

P: Yes, I believe all the gifts of the Spirit are still operating today. We have no indication from scripture that they ever stopped.

CC: I’ve heard that some parts of the church believe that if you haven’t spoken in tongues, you don’t have the Holy Spirit. Is that true?

P: Well, maybe some churches somewhere believe that, but that is an exaggeration of a theological view called “Second Blessing” theology. Most charismatics and Pentecostals believe that if you believe in Jesus you have the Holy Spirit. Period.

The source of some of the confusion is that many people have testified to having a second experience with the Spirit, after salvation, where they felt set free from sin and empowered with gifts in a new way. Many call this second experience being “baptized” in the Spirit or “filled” with the Spirit. Charismatics and Pentecostals often witnessed people speaking in tongues during or after this second experience with the Spirit. What developed over time was “Second Blessing” theology that states, “if you haven’t spoken in tongues, you must not have been filled with the Spirit.” This is the theology that most other evangelicals find troubling.

CC: So do you think that if a person hasn’t spoken in tongues that they aren’t filled with the Spirit?

P: First, we need to understand that “receiving” the Spirit at salvation is one thing and getting “filled” with the Spirit is a different thing. I like to say that when we are filled with the Spirit we don’t get more of the Spirit but the Spirit gets more of us.

As to your question, my answer is “No.” I don’t think tongues are the only sign of someone experiencing a filling of the Spirit. I think there are many “signs” that a person has experienced a “baptism” in the Spirit or “filling” of the Spirit. One of those signs may be that they now pray in tongues. But I believe there are other signs that accompany that experience. Some people weep, others shake, others fall down under the weight of God’s power and glory, and the list goes on. I believe tongues is sometimes a sign and sometimes not.

More important than the initial sign is the actual fruit in a person’s life. If a person truly did experience a filling of the Spirit, they will have increased victory over sin in their life, increased power to live holy and surrendered, increased intimacy with the Lord, likely brand new gifts of the Spirit and/or gifts that were already there get lit on fire by the power of God.

CC: Are you saying you do think there is such a thing as a “baptism in the Spirit” that is different than what happens when we receive the Spirit at salvation?

P: I believe that we receive all of the Holy Spirit at salvation. I also believe we can experience these moments after salvation were we get “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). When charismatics and Pentecostals talk about the “baptism of the Spirit” I believe they are referring the the “first time” a person experiences a filling of the Spirit. Yet, I believe we can have many of these moments throughout our journey with Christ.

Evangelicals tend to believe that the “baptism of the Spirit” is what happens at salvation when you receive the Spirit. Yet, I grew up in the Southern Baptist church where people would have moments after salvation that they would call “rededicating their life” to the Lord. These “rededication” moments sometimes involved a new victory over sin and a general turn around in their life. I wonder sometimes if they simply experienced a “filling of the Spirit” in those moments and, because we were Baptist, just didn’t have language for it.

CC: So where do tongues fit into your theology?

P: Like I said, I do believe they can be a sign that accompanies a moment where a person has an encounter with God and experiences a filling of the Spirit. I also believe it can show up like any other gift. For me, I had a radical encounter with God that was a “filling of the Spirit” more intense than anything I had ever experienced before. Charismatics and Pentecostals would probably call this my “baptism in the Spirit” moment. But for me, this moment was preceded by a process and this moment did not involve speaking in tongues.

Imagine wading out into the ocean until finally a wave crashes down on your head. This is how it was for me with the Holy Spirit. There was a year and a half process of wading deeper and deeper into the waters of the Spirit until I experienced a wave of the Spirit that crashed over me. Pentecostals might call the wave crashing my “baptism in the Spirit” but really, it started with a process and culminated in an event. It wasn’t just about the event.

After that I kept having new and fresh encounters with the Lord in different ways. It definitely was a “filling of the Spirit.” But for me, when a person is filled with the Spirit it isn’t that they get more of the Holy Spirit. It is that the Holy Spirit gets more of them. That’s what happened to me.

For six months after that I didn’t pray in tongues. I wasn’t given that gift. But I did want that gift, so I asked a friend of mine to pray for me that I receive it. And it didn’t come like a volcano, erupting out of me from the depths of my belly like it does for some. It came more like a slow trickle. Then the trickle became a stream and the stream became a river. It grew in me much like many other gifts have. It was a process.

CC: So you speak in tongues?

P: I pray in tongues. Meaning, I have a prayer language that is in tongues. I do not have the corporate gift of speaking in a tongue in a public setting and having it interpreted. That is a different kind of tongues. What people may not realize is that there are many kinds of tongues, and the Greek in 1 Corinthians 12:10 is in the plural. There is the tongues that erupts out of some people when they are filled with the Spirit for the first time and it acts as a sign (and less like a continual gift). There is the tongues that is the prayer language. There is the tongues that is the public gift that should be interpreted in a public setting. There is the tongues that is a literal human language given to people for the spread of the gospel in missionary settings. All of these are real and all of these are a version of the gift of tongues.

CC: So you pray in tongues. What does that mean?

P: It means in my private prayer life, I will often shift from praying in English, my native language, to praying in tongues, which is more of a Holy Spirit language. Paul said, “If I speak in tongues of men or of angels….”(1 Corinthians 13:1). Some people’s private prayer language sounds nothing like a human language. Some people’s private prayer language sounds just like a foreign language that they don’t know.

This shift into tongues can happen whenever I choose, but it sometimes happens without me choosing. Specifically, if I am praying either in great celebration and joy or in great agony and pain, I find that I will almost automatically shift into tongues during those moments. It’s like the Spirit is saying, “Here, since you don’t know what to pray, I’ll pray through you.”

CC: Fascinating! What would you say is the purpose of praying in tongues if you don’t even know what you are saying?

P: The way I describe it to people is this…you know how you can start a worship service feeling disconnected from God or just distracted. Maybe your heart and mind aren’t really focused on Jesus. But then you worship, and 30 minutes later you feel totally different. You feel connected to God. You feel His Presence. Your heart and mind are focused on Him. Your worries have dropped to the ground and your faith is rising. You feel His love for you and your heart feels like it is back to a place of peace, grounded in Christ. When you pray in tongues, what would take 30 minutes of worship to get you into that place spiritually takes only a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds.

The apostle Paul said the purpose of a person praying in tongues is to “edify themselves” (1 Corinthians 14:4). In other words, praying in tongues quickly realigns your heart and mind toward Christ and ushers you quickly into the Presence of God in a way that few other things can. When a person prays in tongues for extended periods of time, there is a kind of saturation of the Spirit that happens where hearing God becomes easier and communing with God feels natural.

CC: Are there other purposes for praying in tongues?

P: Definitely. The other kinds of tongues have other kinds of purposes. But “praying in tongues” specifically can also be used in spiritual warfare. I have found that demonic spirits hate when people pray in tongues. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to them. So there have been times in deliverance prayer sessions where we used it as a kind of weapon to weaken and expose the enemy.

CC: Are there certain times you pray in tongues more than others?

P: I try to pray in tongues every morning more as a spiritual discipline. But I especially find myself praying in tongues in moments of need. Like, if I am on my way to pray for someone who is critically ill and desperately needs healing, I would likely pray in tongues. In that moment I desperately need to hear from God, feel His Presence, and bolster my faith. Tongues helps that happen in a very short amount of time.

Or, if I am in a worship environment that is supercharged with the tangible Presence of God, I will likely find myself praying in tongues. This happens not because I am in a state of desperate need, but more as a reaction to the manifest Presence of God. It’s like the Psalmist wrote, “deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7). The Holy Spirit in me is responding to the Father making His Presence felt in the room.

CC: Do you pray in tongues out loud in a worship service? And if so, does that distract the people around you?

P: When I am praying for a person individually or I’m in a worship service, and I feel the urge or need to pray in tongues, I tend to do so under my breath. I don’t do this because I am somehow ashamed of tongues. Not at all. I love the gift of tongues and would want it for everyone. But I pray under my breath out of respect for the people around me who might take issue with it. I don’t want to be a distraction or a hinderance to their worship. But, if I am in the company of people that also pray in tongues or don’t object to praying in tongues, then I will do so in a way that is more vocal.

CC: Do you think people who don’t pray in tongues are somehow lesser Christians or less mature?

P: No. God is more concerned with our character than our gifts, and tongues is just one gift among many. It’s an awesome gift and a useful tool, but it shouldn’t be used as a barometer of spiritual maturity. There are plenty of spiritually immature Christians who can pray in tongues and plenty of mature Christians who cannot.

CC: Any final comments about praying in tongues?

P: The apostle Paul said, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues” and “do not forbid speaking in tongues“(1 Corinthians 14:5, 39). And I understand why he felt this way. It’s a great tool for the believer to have. So if you want to pray in tongues, pursue it. Pray for it. Ask someone who can pray in tongues to pray over you to get this gift.

But also understand that we shouldn’t fret over not having this gift. The Holy Spirit decides who gets which gifts. And while he does respond to our asking, he also is sovereign. If you don’t pray in a tongue, don’t worry about it and don’t judge others who do. Those are the two errors I see people fall into the most. Often out of insecurity, they either fret about not having the gift or they get cynical and judge others who do have this gift. Both reactions are unhealthy. Grow in the gifts you already have. Be a faithful steward of those gifts and trust God with the rest.