empowered by the spirit for mission

What is the Gift of Tongues?

The gift of tongues or the gift of languages is the supernatural ability to speak in a language that you have never learnt. Although it can be an earthly language, as it was on the day of Pentecost, often it is a heavenly language that is unintelligible to human hearers unless it is interpreted.

Are tongues the sign of baptism in the Spirit?

In Pentecostal circles speaking in tongues is often understood to be the initial sign of baptism in the Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit is not automatic upon becoming a follower of Jesus. It is a definite deep spiritual experience accompanied by some outward sign. My own experience was that I did speak in tongues but I cannot see from the scriptures that tongues are necessarily the sign of baptism with the Spirit.

How should we use speaking in tongues?

Personally I have found that praying in tongues silently in this way can be a real help as I go about my daily life. It strengthens me enabling me to be confident enough speak out or help someone when I need to and it opens up a channel through which God can guide my prayers.

Also in many charismatic circles there is a practice of everyone speaking in tongues at the same time. It appears that Paul tells the Corinthians that this isn’t the way to use these gifts. It is selfish and will course any guests or visitors to doubt the sanity of the group.

Paul indicates two ways to use tongues. Either one person at a time should speak in audibly tongues and someone else should interpret so that the rest can understand what is said or they should be speak in tongues silently holding the words inside their head.

I have discussed some these points on speaking on tongues before on my previous blog here.

Related posts on CharisMissional

When I Spoke in Tongues at Greenbelt
How Often Do You Speak in Tongues?

October 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

What is Discerning of Spirits?

Spiritual discernment is telling the origin of a word or action. Is it inspired by God? Is it just someone’s good idea i.e. from their own spirit? Is its origin from some evil forces? As Christians this should be carried out with a charitable attitude. We need to take care that our seeking of the truth doesn’t end up making us angry and bitter mud slingers. Too often have I seen internet discussions between Christians go this way.

Discernment inside the church

When a prophecy, teaching or an idea is brought to the church or Christian group it is important to discern its origins. Paul says that prophecy should be weighed. If the group is small enough a good way to do this is through questions and discussion. In a larger church situation this conversational approach may be more difficult. But however it is done the final responsibility of sifting what is said rests with the elders. However if God gives this gift to others they can express their feelings on this to the elders.

Discernment outside the church

It could also be we need to be aware of the forces at work in our community, workplace or wherever we are trying to reach. I am aware that some charismatics have some quite bizarre ideas about how the devil works and how we should deal with him. We often need to be discerning about our approach to discernment.

Further Reading

Nigel Goring Wright’s Theology of the Dark Side gives a helpful and balanced understanding of how these forces may work. See my review of his book here.

Discerning of Spirits a post by by Scott Lencke on Prodigal Thought

September 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

What is the Gift of Prophecy?

What is prophecy?

As a charismatic I believe that God still speaks today. God speaks through the Bible and the Spirit may emphasise certain verses to us and show us how these apply. This is the beginnings of prophecy.

Christian prophecy should never contradict what the Bible clearly says but it will be more than just someone explaining what the Bible means. It is someone speaking God’s perspective on a particular situation that may include facts that God reveals and even predictions of what God will do.

God may bring ideas to our minds as we focus on him either to be spoken right away or to be meditated on and then spoken at another time.

How should prophecy be worded?

In the Old Testament prophecy was mainly spoken in the first person as if God was actually dictating the message word for word in the prophet’s mind.

Interestingly in the New Testament we see prophecy said as ‘the Holy Spirit says that…’ rather than ‘Thus says the Lord…’ I have heard prophecy today in both formats but I must confess to feeling more comfortable with someone explaining what they feel God might be saying than saying ‘God says…’

This more conversational approach leaves us room to weigh what God is saying. It allows people to take what is good without worrying if they think that one or two phrases were not of God.

Where do we prophesy?

Prophecy may be for each other as we gather together in each other’s homes or in larger gatherings but also it may also be for others outside the church.

It could be that God gives a prophecy that is very relevant to a non-Christian who is visiting our meeting. But it could also be that God speaks to you with something to say to one of your friends or colleagues. If so we could end up prophesying anywhere – in a cafe or in a pub.

I wonder if raising a topic in conversation may prove a more fruitful way to explore what God is saying than saying ‘God told me this…’ especially if you are talking to someone who isn’t a Christian.

Whoever the prophecy is for whether the gathered church or individual friends or colleagues we need to pray for an opportunity to speak it out – and then go for it!


Scott Lencke has started a series of posts over on Prodigal Thought on ‘What is Prophecy?’ Part one is here.

September 18, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

What is the Gift of Miracles?

picture by jczorkmid on flickr

Miracles are powerful sudden and undeniably supernatural works of God. They may include sudden healings or unexplained provision of needs. As a charismatic I believe that miracles continued throughout history and do occur today although by their very nature they are not a common occurrence.

Miracles build our faith

Stories of true miracles are thrilling as they show God at work and bringing his grace and mercy to needy people. It is so encouraging when a friend or colleague tells us of something amazing that has happened as a result of our prayers. This can increase our confidence in praying for the needs of our friends.

Though I am skeptical of hype

Unfortunately if we search the internet for stories of miracles today we find stories of healings in big meetings surrounded by hype. God may well be at work in some of the situations but I must admit to being skeptical.

There are also cases of miracles such the appearance of gold fillings in people’s teeth or gold dust falling from the ceiling. I cannot see why God would do this as I can see no real benefit to the people involved.

I am sure that there are true miracles today

I am thrilled by personal accounts of God answering the prayers of people I know.

I also love hearing stories that are often ‘off the radar’ so to speak. It is great to hear stories of God providing for people, especially in poverty stricken countries, healing people or even bringing them back from the dead in places where access to medical care is limited. Here I can see God’s hand meeting people at a point of need.

Yes, despite my skepticism of the hype I believe that God can and does move today. These are Gifts of miracles!

Related post

Is This Revival? on my previous blog.

September 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

What is the Gift of Faith?


Faith by 4thglryofgod

The ability to move mountains

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says ‘If I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing’. This is a reference to what Jesus said about mountain moving faith in Mark 11. These verses show that the gift of faith is a supernatural confidence that God will remove any obstacle that gets in the way of us his purposes.

What, all the time?

I don’t agree with much of the Word of Faith teaching sometimes referred to as the ‘faith movement’ that is popular in some Christian media such as the God Channel. They imply that we are called to live in such mountain moving faith all the time. This sort of teaching can get people into serious financial trouble.

No, not all the time

In reality we pray and do not always see the answer come. We may be convinced that it is what God wants but still God does not do it. We also have doubts and we should not be made to feel guilty about that. A friend of mine David Matthew has written this article on this inspired by his own situation of praying for his house to sell.

Just sometimes

I believe that on occasions God does give us a confidence to see an obstacle overcome to further the purposes of his kingdom. This is the gift of faith.

August 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

What are the Nine Gifts of the Spirit?

As a charismatic I believe that the gift of the Spirit are still in operation today and that we need them all to fulfil the mission to which God has called us.

Photo by Ken’s Oven on flickr

Announcing a new blog series!

I have discussed the gifts briefly before here but in the following series I want to look at each of the nine gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-12 in more detail. What are they? How do they work? How do they help us fulfil God’s mission?

Paul refers to these nine as manifestations of the Spirit. There are a number of other lists of the gifts. Some refer to spoken contributions when we gather as church. Others include more natural abilities that can be used in serving such as administration. Others list roles in the church such as apostles. Many of these lists overlap and none may not be exhaustive.

1 Corinthians 12:8-12

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.

So what are the nine gifts?

My aim in this series is to define each one of the gifts in this passage in turn and look at how they work especially in relation to mission. Of course the purpose of the gifts is to build each other up as the body of Christ but the impact of these gifts also overflows to others.

I will start with the word of wisdom next week and then work through the list in order:

Word of wisdom
Word of knowledge
Discerning of Spirits
Interpretation of tongues

Further Reading

Audio teaching on 1 Corinthians 12 Gifts of the Spirit on Prodigal Thought

August 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

As a charismatic it is my experience and belief that the authentic gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operating in the church today. They are there for all believers to seek and to use out of love for each other enabling us all to draw closer to Jesus together.

Some time ago I gave some brief definitions of the gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and looking at these I thought they needed a little more elaboration.

1. A word of wisdom

This is when God gives someone insight into how God is working out his purposes so that they can speak into a situation enabling someone to make appropriate sensible decisions. Like many of the gifts this may come in very natural ways in conversations and provide practical help in situations leading to level-headed and successful responses.

2. A word of knowledge

I tend to see the definition of this as ‘God given insight into God’s heart and mind’ that is given by teachers such as Rodman Williams and Mark Stibbe as being the most biblical. But the idea of this being specific knowledge of a situation that God reveals has been popularised by preachers such as John Wimber and is often what people mean when they use this term.

3. Faith

The gift of faith is when God encourages you to hold onto him in a difficult situation even if you can see no way out. People’s faith may be stimulated by stories of answers to prayer – particularly of healing and miracles – or even of others being saved – but we need to ensure that these are cautiously stated and are factual and true or people will become cynical. Ultimately it is God that gives the faith it isn’t something you can whip up.

4. Gifts of healing

Healings occur when God enables you to supernaturally bring about wholeness and relieve someone’s suffering in response to prayer. Healings may also come in response to you commanding sickness to leave or you commanding a healing to come as we see Jesus and the early apostles doing. But I think we need to take care that we do this in a gentle yet authoritative way.

5. Miraculous powers

These are when God enables you to meet the needs of others in amazing and unusual ways. The way this term is often used gives much overlap with healing – but another important aspect of this God given provision. We need to take care to distinguish needs from wants and not be led astray by materialism. I am thrilled when I hear of God providing money and resources when it clearly demonstrates God’s care for the poor.

6. Prophecy

When God speaks to you so that you can show others what he is saying. This doesn’t need to have the trapping of ‘Thus says the Lord…’. You might just want to say that you sense the Holy Spirit is emphasizing something that you go on to explain. It might be about God’s nature or purposes or specifics of a situation. Though some may refer to revelation about specifics of a situation such as insights into someone’s health problems as a word of knowledge – the Bible appears to refer to this as prophecy.

7. Distinguishing between spirits

The gift of discernment may give you insight into what is actually happening in a given spiritual situation. For instance, when someone is apparently responding to God in an unusual way is this really the Holy Spirit moving being embraced with humility or is it an emotional response as the result of human hype or showmanship or are their even evil forces at work here?

8. Speaking in different kinds of tongues

Speaking in tongues is when God enables you to speak to him in languages you have never learnt. As with all the gifts you are still in control but if you receive this gift unlike other gifts you can operate it at will especially to use in their own devotions. Though sometimes the first gift someone receives we cannot say that without this ability someone is not Spirit filled.

9. Interpretation of tongues

The Bible indicates that speaking in tongues when we come together should involve each person speaking in turn and that someone should then explain to others what someone who just spoke in tongues actually said. I would only speak in tongues in this way if I felt specifically prompted by God and I believe the result would be a prayer from the Spirit that sums up some or all of the people’s hearts. When I hear such tongues or speak them myself I often sense that I understand them and so give the interpretation.

Further Reading

Here is a good summary of Mark Stibbe’s out of print book Know Your Spiritual Gifts summarised by Alison Morgan

Related post: What Does Charismatic Mean?

March 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

John Crowder on Baptism with the Spirit

Here is another outline of baptism with the Spirit for those who are interested in this idea. As I’ve said before baptism with the Spirit is something I would encourage all Christians to experience. And if it is already your experience I would encourage you to continue to live in and look into the Bible to understand more.

This outline is by John Crowder whose teaching is surprisingly sound and biblical considering some of the excesses of his meetings and claims that he makes – that I’ve already discussed elsewhere.

Believers already have the Holy Spirit

In this video he discusses the notion that some have that we receive the Holy Spirit as a second blessing at some point after believing in Jesus. Crowder argues from Collosians 2:9-10 that godhead dwells in Christ so if Christ is in us – so is the Spirit and the Father for that matter. So the Trinity cannot be separated this way.

Instead he describes the experience of baptism with the Spirit – which he most certainly believes in – as having our senses tangibly immersed, overcome or filled with the Spirit.

Baptism with the Spirit is just the first of many infillings

He then quickly goes on to say that this is not just a one time experience but we are encouraged to be continually filled – finding our excitement and ecstasy in Christ.

I don’t think his point is to deny that there is an experience separate from believing in Jesus where this happens but simply to say that it is should be just the first of many such experiences of being filled with the Spirit. Though there are deep ecstatic experiences where people are completely overcome with the Spirit there is also the immense joy of continual living in God’s presence as we drink in the Spirit every moment of every day.

But he makes the point that when we are first filled with the Spirit – this experience of baptism with the Spirit simply means that we have begun to drink from a well that is already in us.

Do even unbelievers have the Spirit?

Interestingly and perhaps more controversially Crowder goes further to say that even unbelievers have God within them but in a hidden way. He argues this from Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill where Paul quotes the pagan writer who says ‘in him we live and move and have our being… we are his offspring’.

Crowder sees salvation is the result of recognising our true identity – that in reality we are not separated from God that we have separated ourselves from God by becoming his enemies. In Acts 8 – believers did not know about the Holy Spirit – it wasn’t that they didn’t have the Holy Spirit – they just didn’t know it.

He also sees Romans 8:9 not as saying that some people don’t belong to God instead Paul is simply saying that disobedient believers who say they have the Spirit should be reflecting the life of Christ.

I’m not so sure that I follow all of this last point but I think that his point is to emphasise that our experience of baptism of the Spirit is not when the Holy Spirit comes into us as the Holy Spirit is not just there because we have believed but was even within us before as he is omni-present.

Related Posts

Baptised in the Spirit
How to get Stoned on Jesus: Meet John Crowder and Friends
Seven Spirits Burning by John Crowder

March 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Charisma Magazine’s Trends to Watch in 2012

Charisma Magazine – one of the most popular Christian magazines for charismatic Christians has made some predictions for 2012 in this post of twelve trends to watch. You’ll be glad to hear they are not about the end of the world or any other end time nonsense they’re mostly based on careful some observations of what is happening across the globe. Here’s my summary of them but please feel free to check out the link.

1. Record numbers of Christians will be martyrs

Every day over 400 Christians die for their faith around the world, mostly in Islamic countries. Charisma highlights the probable increases in persecution Africa such as in Nigeria, where Pentecostals are clashing violently with Islam.

2. The Asian church will take the lead in missionary ventures

The churches in India and China are growing immensely and sending more and more missionaries into Islamic countries and even into Europe and the West.

3. The Arab Spring will thaw resistance to the gospel

New opening for the gospel are appearing as Egypt, Syria & Libya have become more democratic – such as through Christian TV which Charisma assures us is “not the constant begging for money we hear on American TV”.

4. North America increasingly will be viewed as a needy mission field

Church attendance has been falling rapidly in the States and there are many overseas students from countries where Christianity is even more in the minority.

5. The debate over approving homosexuality will take centre stage

I certainly agree that how Christians should respond to GLBT issues is set to be one of the major controversies of the year in mainline, evangelical and Pentecostal churches.

6. America will experience a church-growth renaissance

Though many churches are closing many new non-traditional churches are being planted. Church growth Ed Stetzer predicts thousands of churches being planted this year (more than are closing). Is it over the top to say this could lead to an explosion on the scale of the Second Great Awakening?

7. The economic downturn will actually be good for the church

John Piper believes that in recession:
1. we depend on God more
2. non-Christians see efforts to reach them as love rather than exploitation;
3. people are more ready to hear about eternal life as they are less secure about earthly things
4. Christians are more generous as they have less material security.

8. Look for a radical reformation to occur in charismatic/Pentecostal churches

Charisma predicts more high profile scandals – moral & financial – as God purges the church. People will become more interested in authenticity, integrity and holiness than in hyped up showmanship, bizarre manifestations and prosperity teaching.

9. Denominations will be redefined

As a new generation of leaders develop some Pentecostal denominations will ditch old structures & policies and shift to be based more on relationships than on hierarchy. The ones that don’t will become increasingly irrelevant.

10. Many megachurches will stop trying to grow bigger and will instead branch out

Churches will plant out new congregations rather than just grow bigger. The shift will mean church becomes more personal and relational.

11. Disasters will continue, but Christians will often be the first responders

Natural disasters are increasing world wide perhaps this may be part of a cyclical pattern or it may be due to global warming. Rather than seeing this as anything to do with the end of the world Charisma predicts that Christian organizations and churches will show the mercy of Christ when more disasters inevitably hit in 2012.

12. Expect a supernatural surprise

The article ends by pointing out that ‘Our generation has never witnessed a revival’ and in typical charismatic fashion encouraging us to pray expectantly for one this year.

January 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm Comments (3)

Seven Spirits Burning by John Crowder

A book review

This is fairly scholarly expositional teaching on the Holy Spirit from John Crowder – a hyper-charismatic preacher with a Latter Rain heritage.  The odd turn of phrase did jar a little but overall I found Seven Spirits Burning surprisingly satisfying. I particularly liked the fact that it is very positive about the Kingdom of God.

Seven Spirits Burning contains some sound teaching on the seven aspects of the Spirit found in Isaiah 11:2. It shows how first and foremost the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord, but also how the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, and finally of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. John Crowder draws on many scriptures and uses a variety of translations. He has produced some well written arguments that give some good general principles about how the Spirit works. I’ve read quite a few prophetic revivalist type books. Seven Spirits Burning is much more Biblical and better written than most.

But, as is the case with many books from these circles, I would be cautious of what Seven Spirits Burning says about miracles. For instance I wouldn’t advise pulling a wheelchair user out of their chair as a young boy does in one of the illustrations. And I am sorry but I just don’t believe some of the bizarre claims John Crowder makes; I wonder if he is actually joking, which elsewhere in the book he does admit to sometimes doing. He also tells some of the more far-fetched stories from church history as if they were facts. Nevertheless these tall stories are only a small part of Seven Spirits Burning.

If you are happy with or can cope with John Crowder’s occasional aberrations then you can learn much about the true working of the Holy Spirit from this book.


Thanks to Mike Morrell of the SpeakEasy Network for sending me this book to review free of charge.

Also check out my earlier post How to get Stoned on Jesus: Meet John Crowder and Friends for some of the more bizarre aspects of John Crowder’s ministry.

December 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

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