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Apocalyptic Sermons

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

I preached the first of two apocalyptic sermons at Foothills Church in Stayton. It was on Matthew 24, done on the 10th anniversary of 9/11! Just before I left to preach the sermon, I read DA Carson’s New Bible Commentary which gave me a different and better perspective on 24:29-35. Now, mind you, this is in the final moments of getting everything into my head, days after the Power Point and sermon outline went in. And now a key interpretation changes!

Matthew 24 is Jesus answering the disciples questions: when will the Temple be destroyed and what will be the signs of Your coming? Jesus begins by telling them there will be many terrors — false messiahs, wars, hostilities, famines, earthquakes – but don’t give in to deception or fear for that sort of thing will typify the whole time. It is not the end of the age or the failure of Jesus (though it may be the failure of the religion, Christianity). In all these things, the gospel will be proclaimed and the kingdom will be real even if like yeast. Then He gives signs of the destruction of the Temple – the arrival of the abomination which turns out to be Titus. There are recognizable signs of this and Christians are warned to get out of town, which they did in 66 AD. Those are the days of terrible tribulation.

I thought verse 29 began speaking of the second question, the coming of Jesus with cosmic signs, leading up to “this generation will not pass away before all these things happen.” This is very difficult since Jesus did not come back in that generation. But Carson took me to what I have dedicated myself to: interpret NT symbols by how they are used in the OT. He observes that the language of sun darkening and stars falling comes from Isaiah 13 and 34. There it speaks of the fall of Babylon not the end of the times. The Son of Man language of v. 30 is from Daniel 7 where it is anointing of Messiah rather than the second coming of Messiah. Using that perspective means that the section from 29-35 is speaking to the change from God meeting humans at the Jerusalem Temple to the Him meeting us in One greater than the Temple, i.e., Jesus. The long promised New Covenant is inaugurated, Messiah is anointed King and Messiah, and the time of the Jerusalem Temple is ended. The language uses powerful images from the OT to help us see that change which is typified by the destruction of the Temple is “cosmic”!

That means the generation of verse 34 is the people listening to Him as He speaks the prophecy. It is about the time of the destruction of the Temple. There are signs of that event which actually comes less than 35 years later, just as Jesus said.

Verse 36 begins speaking of the second coming, referred to specifically as the parousia in verse 37. Unlike the destruction of the Temple, there are no signs of that event. Even Jesus, in His incarnate state where He has laid aside the use of His divine powers to live as a perfectly Spirit filled human, does not know. It is like a thief in the night. We are ready not because we have some magic decoder ring to predict the date, but because we are doing the consistent work of living and declaring the reality of the kingdom.

The second is on the whole book of Revelation in a single sermon. A bit of a task.

Bell on Hell

Friday, June 17th, 2011

When Rob Bell speaks you have to listen. He is so compelling, so likeable, so confident. He has a contagious love for Jesus. He uses images, and metaphors, and ideas with incredible dexterity. So when he poetically probes questions about hell, we question too. He rightly wonders about people who feel they must declare proudly and noisily that Gandhi is in hell. He does a great job of deconstructing the hellfire and brimstone people, ones who see God getting glory out of people burning in hell. There are frustratingly many of these, though it’s much less common in the evangelicals associated with Western Seminary or the churches I minister in.

He outlines his view: At the end of the age, God’s love overcomes every objection and everyone comes to know and accept Jesus. This is not the “all roads lead to God” type of universalism, but a Christian universalism with salvation only through the name of Jesus. He cites passages like Philippians 2:10 and Colossians 1:20.

Bell centers on the deep deep love of God. Ironically this is one of his weaker spots. When he insists, “love wins,” he makes God more like the dominating husband demanding his own way than the triune God of the Bible, the God who will let you choose, the one who will let you love someone else. The God of the Bible is something like a jilted husband, grieving for His lost covenant partner. Bell’s God largely does a pass on the anger that love raises up when confronted with persistent sin and evil, the God who is like an outraged father whose daughter has been abused. Forgiveness and reconciliation come only at great expense and are easily derailed through one party’s resistance.

He asks a good question: Does God want all to be saved? My answer is absolutely. The God who seeks Adam and Eve out after their sin seeks everyone. John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9 are very clear. Then he asks does God get what he wants? My synthesis of the biblical data says He does not. God draws (John 12:32), convicts (John 16:8-11) and leads (Rom. 2:4-11) every human being toward His kindness. Anyone who responds to this drawing will find a God who initiates in grace, eager to reveal Messiah Jesus through various means. Those who like Jesus and want to be like Him and with Him doing the cool things He likes to do will be there and do that forever.

But He also allows the many of the ones He draws to persist in their demand to run their own lives as they see fit — often for very bad reasons — and reject His love. if you don’t like doing the things Jesus does, then you get to live in a place we call hell. Bell correctly says that there are many Middle Ages pictures of hell that are very non-biblical and shreds them. But he also shreds the fact of the self centeredness that makes people reject the self-giving way of Jesus. He shreds the biblical concept of sin, which Luther termed curvatus in se, bent in on self. This means separation from God for all and punishment for evil doers.

I believe there are different levels of hell. Matt. 11:20ff is one place this is clear. So for many, hell is the place of ultimate selfishness after God gives them over (Rom. 1:24ff) to their own desires, an ultimately self-centered place they think they want. But that’s a very alone existence, completely absent of the self-giving love of God. For evildoers, especially those guilty of spiritual evil, that will be a place of terrible punishment. It will be existence – not living – under His curse, in the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Mat 25:41)

What really hacks me is that Bell actually changes the very text of Scripture to fit his view (Matt 25:46; details below for those who want specifics). He does it without any justification or even telling us that he’s doing it. And then he accuses people who follow the text of reading foreign concepts into the text. Astounding. Absolutely astounding. And completely unacceptable.

The other big scale issue is that he has virtually no gospel left. As he deconstructs the whacked gospel of the hell fire and brimstone preachers, he makes the Bible seem as if there’s just total confusion and then never says what Jesus’ provision is nor what our response should be. His discussion bypasses the whole issue of sin and stays quite vague about what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. Not good.

Finally he begins his book with Gandhi because most people think him a super good guy and therefore must be headed to heaven. Anyone who says he’s in hell obviously is a bigoted fundamentalist. But Gandhi investigated Jesus and rejected Him, choosing to be a Hindu and worship the Hindu gods. His form of non-violence led to a civil war in which vast numbers were injured and killed. The division and hatred continue to this day. Now contrast Gandhi with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King investigated Jesus and embraced Him. His revolution was largely blood free and the reconciliation which he initiated, though incomplete, continues to this day.

What should we do with hell? Denying it’s existence is like denying that I have cancer. I appreciate Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Luke 16. I resonate deeply with his tears at the thought of people going to hell and his passion to spread the old old story of Jesus and His love given freely so they can find life. Then it will be true that LOVE WINS.

The best review of Love Wins is by Ben Witherington of Asbury Seminary does a chapter by chapter review. The links are here:

There is a chronology of written and video reviews on Resurgence.com

I particularly like John Mark Reynolds of the Torrey Honors Institute: here: .

Now some details: According to every English translation of Matthew 25:46 – Jewish , Catholic, mainline, and evangelical – Jesus says that goats go into eternal punishment. Anyone who goes against every single translation has to give really good reason for it. Let’s take a look. In Greek the words are aionion kolasis. No matter what lexicon you select, the only translation is “eternal punishment” or words with the same meaning. But Bell changes the text to aion kolazo. Rather than an adjective modifying a noun, it’s two nouns which really makes no sense. He has to add “of” to make it work. Why does he do that? There are no textual variants, no manuscript evidence, no scholarly questions behind the change; just Bell’s chutzpah that wants to update Jesus. What’s the significance? If you look up the changed words in Bauer, Denker, Arndt & Gingrich, the standard Bible era lexicon, the meaning will still be “eternal punishment.” But if we go to Liddell & Scott, the standard lexicon of classic Greek, the language of philosophers like Plato and Aristotle from some 400 years prior to the biblical era, you can find a rare meaning, “prune.” So Bell constructs the meaning “a period of pruning.” But if the word modifying punishment (or pruning) is for a period of time that ends, then it has to have the same meaning when it modifies life. Does Bell really believe our life with God comes to an end after a while? The big offense here is that he never mentions the fact that he changes the biblical words. And then he accuses people who follow the Jesus’ words of reading categories and concepts into the phrase that aren’t there.

Crisis Communication Tips

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

1. Speed is key. Lasting perceptions are set in the first 24-48 hours.

2. People are self-interested. They want to know how the company is acting to protect them from risk; this includes disclosure of the risks.

3. People are not rational. Facts don’t dominate perceptions, emotions do. Facts are necessary, but not sufficient, when resolving a crisis.

4. Communications without concern will fall on deaf ears. Recognize and acknowledge the human dimension of the problem. Defending company honor is not the first priority in the midst of a crisis.

5. Credible third parties can be your best allies.

6. People know zero-risk is a myth. Still, they want options and controls available to them, and they need information to make risk-benefit judgments.

7. Every action elicits a reaction. Constant monitoring of the situation is essential to keeping control.

8. The symbolism of a company leader being involved and appearing in control is critical to successful crisis communications.

9. Clear, positive, decisive actions are required to convince audiences that the company is responsive and in control.

10. Consistent communications are important. Determine your position and stick to it. If you must change your position, be prepared to explain why.

This is from Waggner Edstrom, an influential PR Company

Knee and Tsunami

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Sherry and I celebrated our 43rd anniversary in very subdued way. We’d planned a trip to Bend to hang out for a time for just us, but that all fell through. Sherry was just in her second day home from the hospital following her second knee replacement. We thought we’d have at least six weeks notice, but there was a cancellation so we took it. That meant a quick change of schedule and arranging for the surgery. We wondered if their surgical gowns would be green since it was St. Patrick’s Day. But all was ordinary. Surgery went well and the pain management was excellent so Sherry came home in good spirits, though the expectation of many weeks of painful recovery is never a good prospect. She has her first physical therapy appointment today and we are looking forward to getting her bruising assessed. There’s a lot more this time and it concerns us.

I had cataract surgery a couple of weeks before Sherry’s surgery. They poked a hole in my cornea, blasted the old cloudy lens with ultrasound, sucked it out, put in a new carefully built plastic lens, smoothed everything out and were done in 8 minutes. Amazing. Now I see very clearly, so much so that I can see the ‘”brown tone” in my other eye which also has a cataract, the doctor says.

Only a few years ago neither of these could have happened and in much of the world they still can’t happen. I just don’t know what to make of that. The advances in health care are astounding but very expensive so it goes with riches. the problems with justice plague my mind, but I have no idea what do about it.

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami also hit close to home. My friend Shigeru and Atsuko Suzuki live there as does the family of one of Donn and Susan’s foreign exchange students. I’ve read John Piper saying the decisive cause is the hand of God (article here) and incline to David Bentley Hart saying this is the work of the enemy whom Jesus came to destroy (article here). In his book, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Piper says “the ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering. The suffering of the utterly innocent and infinitely holy Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the great display of the glory of God’s grace that ever was, or ever could be.” I fully agree that the eternal Son of God entered into our suffering, taking its worst to display the glory of His grace and bring us His joy. But I can’t see in Bible that being the reason for suffering. The statement in Bible is that He came to condemn the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), to destroy the last enemy, death (1 Cor. 15:26; 54-56). I’m more with Hart, believing “For while Christ takes the suffering of his creatures up into his own, it is not because he or they had need of suffering, but because he would not abandon his creatures to the grave. And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity.” On that point we all agree: Evil is evil and the Christian response is to help. 

Sexual Behavior in America

Monday, March 7th, 2011

A new report just came out from the Centers for Disease Control (Report here) and once again confirms the biblical view of sexuality. Russ Douthat has a summary in his NY Times op ed here. Most important is that people who follow a biblical view of sexuality are the most happy folk. Douthat says that another study confirms this:

. . . two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their recent book, “Premarital Sex in America.” Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.

This correlation is much stronger for women than for men. Female emotional well-being seems to be tightly bound to sexual stability — which may help explain why overall female happiness has actually drifted downward since the sexual revolution.

Among the young people Regnerus and Uecker studied, the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime. Virgins were almost as happy, though not quite, and then a young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.

The point isn’t that we should aspire to some Arcadia of perfect chastity. Rather, it’s that a high sexual ideal can shape how quickly and casually people pair off, even when they aren’t living up to its exacting demands. The ultimate goal is a sexual culture that makes it easier for young people to achieve romantic happiness — by encouraging them to wait a little longer, choose more carefully and judge their sex lives against a strong moral standard.

The other thing from the study is that American sexual behavior is actually improving: In 2002 22 percent of Americans ages 15-24 were virgin. But in 2008 that number rose to 28%. That’s still a depressingly small number, but it is an encouraging direction.

So the church has a lot of work to do.

Evangelism Events

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

We had a great time at the Live Nativity at Living Hope Church in Vancouver. You can get a introduction in this YouTube video: They did 13 services, packing the building each time. Attendance totaled 14,000 .  Close to 1800 made decisions for Jesus, John Bishop, the pastor and my friend, reported. It highlighted Curley the Camel, (pictures here), Danny the donkey, three selfish goats, sheep, a cow, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus (yes, live), shepherds, wise men and all the rest.

When I hear of this level of response to accept Jesus, I’m a bit suspicious. I do hail from Missouri, after all. We were there Thursday night, the night before Christmas Eve. The place was packed before the 7 pm start time. The show was amazing even if Danny the Donkey kept kicking the floor, much to John’s frustration (turned out he just wanted some attention). The close came to think of the nails that would pierce the baby’s hands and John gave the invitation to pray with him. I wondered what would happen. I was astounded to hear many voices around me praying the prayer aloud along with John.  I looked and there was quite a variety of people, young and old, traditional and hip. They were encouraged to stop by the welcome table and pick up a special Bible with a “what’s next” packet. There were people all over who were ready to talk with those who prayed.

Sherry and Cyndee needed to stop by the restroom, so I was standing beside the wall of the food court (Living Hope met in Vancouver Mall, by the way). As I was watching people, I noticed a twenty something woman nearby. When I looked back a bit later, I noticed that she was pulling something out of her bag. It was one of the Living Hope Bibles. So I went over to her and asked if she’d been at the service. The smile erupted, “O, wasn’t it wonderful!” I asked about the Bible and if she’d come in contact with Jesus. Her smile grew bigger. “No, I did that last year,” she laughed. “I got the Bible for my Dad. He’s the most stubborn man in the world and he’s there right now trying to figure out if he can receive Jesus!” As we talked her boyfriend came out. He came from a strong Christian home but her home had no religion of any kind. We talked of her conversion in the 2009 Nativity service and her deep desire that her Dad would come in. I asked if we could pray and they were delighted. So I prayed for the stubborn Dad as I expressed my joy for the change in her life. I didn’t pray for my skepticism, but probably I should have.

Preparing for Christmas

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

The folks at Crossway asked me to do a guest blog on how we prepare for Christmas. That got me to remembering Christmas past of course. Our second was in Baguio Philippines with a 8 month old. I thought riding my motor cycle into the mountains would be an adventure. It was exhausting! I simply refused to talk to the policeman who stopped me on the main street of Baguio, pointing him the van where Sherry was riding with David and Patty Jo Yount. Turned out it was illegal for motorcyles to be on the street, but I was in no shape to talk coherently to him or anyone else. After we returned to the states, we most often went to Albuquerque to spend time with family. Then there were the overseas Christmas times with our time in Taiwan a great highlight. Our home has often been a center, but no so much now. We usually travel to be with our children.

Here’s the blog post:

Sherry and I are empty nesters and happy grandparents, so we no longer do the big family meal at our house. Our daughter, Cyndee, will come from one side of Oregon and we’ll travel to the other side to David and Samantha’s home to hang with Nicole (10) and Joy (8), two of our grandgirls. We’ll Skype Donn, Susan and Elizabeth (3) and share our distributed Christmas. I’m glad Jesus is Lord of the universe, but I sure wish our family were all living within a couple of blocks of our house.

A highpoint of preparation is when we take Nicole (10) and Joy (8) shopping. They direct us to their favorite stores and we prowl the aisles looking for the most delightful gifts possible (There is a budget . . . but it’s grandfatherly!). The joyful thing is that the presents aren’t for Nicole and Joy, but for two girls from poverty stricken homes who will come to the big neighborhood Christmas party at our church. They donate some of their favorite gently used clothes and write notes of care to go with them. Hearing their giggles as they imagine the impact of their love given to complete strangers makes me laugh out loud. How like the LORD who comes to us in Advent.

The youngest reader always reads the Christmas story from Luke 2 before anyone opens presents. It’s important to be prepared so the wiggles of anticipation don’t turn into frustrations! Since Joy reads super well, the struggle to recognize words has become theological discussion of the meaning of the beloved text.

The pictures are from Christmas 1972 (I think): Donn with Grandpa Veazey, David and his wonderful digger (arms are from Grandma Veazey), and then playing with Sherry (who is having more fun?) Sherry with something – too bad a wrong speed setting for the flash meant the bottom of the picture was cut off.

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Thanksgiving 2010

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

While as a Jesus follower, the attitude of gratitude is an everyday thing, on this official Thanksgiving day I have a long tradition of thinking more deeply of those things I’m thankful for.

Doing a lot of marriage and relationship counseling gives me a context for deep gratitude for Sherry’s love for me. It constantly amazes me that she is so giving, so supportive, so open, so . . . Sherry!

I was just with Donn, Susan and Lizzie (her personality has moved her from Elizabeth). Donn, Lizzie, and I went to the Chief’s game on Sunday. Seeing the game in the warm fall weather with a happy three year old was an outstanding experience. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so the pictures (here) are from my cell phone. Our conversations went deep in the short time I was there. I am so thankful for their solid marriage, a healthy Elizabeth after her so perilous first days in intensive care after aspirating meconium, for strong relationship with them. 

We will head over to Hermiston later this morning to spend the holiday with David, Samantha, Nicole and Joy and Sam’s family. We are very thankful that he has his  job at Safeway in Pendleton. Losing his job early this summer left us looking at the reality of really tight times. I see the freezing rain advisory for the area tomorrow and am a bit nervous!

I find that am especially thankful for Cyndee since she is a latter addition to our family. She was home for 10 days at the beginning of the month and we had good Poppa-Daughter times.

The story of Ruth is gripping. I want to be like Boaz, the man of great noble character which means he revels in the LORD, sees “worthless” people, reaches to bless them even when that’s costly to him. He is thankful for Ruth’s request for his help, counting it a great kindness to him (3:10).  To see the strongest power of grace means going into the deepest places of pain. I get to do that. I am so grateful for the transforming power of grace.

Yesterday I was working with a fellow who is early in a very promising relationship. I have this theory of how a relationship should progress that guides my advising. As we talked, I realized that my “paradigmatic” relationship began almost exactly 20 years ago. I prayed with gratitude for them as I challenged the fellow if my office.

Technology is a happymaking too. When we were in the Philippines 40 years ago, the only contact was letters that routinely took a month to go round trip. High tech was a cassette recording of the boys. Now Skype allows me to see my friends who are half a world away . . . and it’s free!

Here’s a cute story I read:

Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely lady with golden hair; I envied her – she seemed so happy and full of joy. Then she rose to leave and I saw her hobble down the aisle; she had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed, a silent prayer I said, Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two feet – the world is mine.

And when I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad who served me had such charm; seemed to radiate good cheer, his manner was so kind and warm; I said, “It’s nice to deal with you, such courtesy I seldom find”. He turned and said, “Oh, thank you sir”, then I saw that he was blind. I silently prayed again, Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two eyes, and the world is mine.

Then, when walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue. He stood and watched the other children play. It seemed he knew not what to do, so I stopped a moment and said, “Why don’t you join the others, dear?” He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear. I silently prayed, Oh God, forgive me when I whine, I have two ears, and the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I want to go; with eyes to see the sunsets glow, with ears to hear what I would know, I am blessed. The world is mine; Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

Blessed Thanks giving!

Hope

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

P9260001 This is the picture of hope for me right now. Our yard was very overgrown, so we had some professional clean up people come by to bring it under control. They did such a great job that they took away five truck loads of vegetation! A lot of plants disappeared in opening up the areas. But soon “stuff” began to poke back up so I went at them with shovel or hoe lest the yard go green in a bad way!

One “offering” came up in front and didn’t look like the normal weeds, so I didn’t chop it out. Soon I was this little stalk coming up and beautiful flowers burst forth. It was proclaiming joy in its new life. Where there was nothing but dirt now there is exuberant beauty.

Hope is one of those topics that has so many different meanings. Back in March my plane was late getting away. As we came into Denver, my seat mate asked, “Do you think you’ll make your flight?” Looking at my watch, I responded, “I hope so.” That meant “It’s not looking good!” In normal American hope refers to something in the future that is unlikely to happen.

In Bible it is a future certainty: Paul prays,“that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19). Hope is a certainty because it rests on the character of God. It is life giving, life shaping certainty about the future resting in the surety of the One who is faithful.

So how does hope relate to life now, especially in a world where things wear out, where relationships rupture, and sin happens. Sherry and I both had surgeries this last week: mine was a bi-lateral laparoscopic hernia repair. Sherry’s a right knee replacement. My hope is that I’ll not hang out any longer. Sherry’s is that the arthritis generated pain will recede to the point that she can enjoy walking again. Especially for her, there is serious pain to go through in order to achieve the hope. The hope is what sustains her when present pain is far worse than her arthritis pain ever was. You can see pictures here. Her hope in the competency of Dr. Goldsmith and the team at Kaiser gives her the courage to lay on their table. Our experience with Kaiser and our research showed that their procedure most always yielded positive results.

What about other places where experience and research don’t provide confidence? Barak Obama was elected on the premise of hope, but did we really think his election would fix the broken economy? Will the broken relationship with my friend every be restored? In fact in many areas research moves us to despair!

How do we live hopefully and take the brokenness of ourselves and the world into account? Catharine Coon gave me a definition of hope I really like: Hope is the active, confident expectation of good based in the character of God. We are confident that He is at work in this messed up world so we look for that working even when we don’t expect the basic nature of brokenness to change. We don’t expect that disease will be healed or poverty erased or injustice stopped – until Jesus comes. Gary Haugen, head of International Justice Mission reminded us that “Christian hope is both possession and yearning, repose and activity, arrival and being on the way. Since God’s victory is certain, believers can work both patiently and enthusiastically, blending careful planning with urgent obedience, motivated by the patient impatience of the Christian hope.”

Tongues and 1 Corinthians 14

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

I’m preaching on this passage at Grace on August 15 so I’ve been reading and re-reading and studying a lot. I’m realizing that the view of tongues I’ve held for a long time isn’t the most likely one. So with any change like this, I’m running it be lots of people. Reading the Bible in the community of faith is so important. The more diverse the community, the more likely getting past the mistakes of one.

So I start with the purpose of tongues. Acts 2:11 says they were declaring the wonders of God. I’d taken that as evangelistic, but on reflection and comparison with 1 Cor. I’m thinking it is praise. Greg Haslam, Pastor of Westminster Chapel in London and one of the men on the Grand Canyon trip, was the one who raised this possibility in our intense discussions.

1 Cor. 14 adds these points:

Tongues are to God by the Spirit (2, 28) where prophecy is to other people. That direction is so obvious. I don’t know how I missed it up to now.

Tongues are a language with informational content, not ecstatic babbling as with pagans. This is very clear in Acts 2 but also in his reference in verse 10-11. There is much debate about whether it is human languages or if it can include language of angels. That seems an open handed issue right now. 

Tongues edify the speaker (4, 28) where prophecy edify the congregation. I’d always taken that as dismissive of tongues, but I think I was wrong on that. Lots of things build me and it’s good. Col. 2:5, 8 say put off sin and 3:12 says put on fruit of the Spirit. That edifies me so I can be more Christlike and a better member of the community. The error would be self-indulgence, something the Corinthians and not a few Americans are into (!!). Building myself is very good if it helps me be a better Jesus follower.

Paul is quite positive about tongues, just not in the public gathering of the church. I’m not sure how I missed his statement that he would like everyone to speak in tongues (14:5). Yes, prophecy is much preferred in the gathering but that does not mean tongues have no place. He is quite clear that he speaks in tongues a lot (14:18), but not on the gathering. That’s the place for prophecy to strengthen, encourage, comfort, edify, instruct (3,4, 26, 31).

Tongues are for prayer (14:14) from the heart. Of course there is also prayer with the mind, i.e., in a known language. Both are good in their proper place, it seems. Some prefer spirit prayer while others prefer mind prayer. Neither is a higher spirituality, it seems. I think Romans 8:26 speaks to this when it says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” So the graonings there are the Spirit at work helping us when our mind and understanding fail us and we don’t know how to pray. That groaning certainly could come out of my mouth, I think.

Tongues are for praise (14:16) just as they are in Acts 2:11 and 10:46. That isn’t helpful for the congregation unless it is interpreted or explained as Peter did in Acts 2.

In the gathering Paul does not speak in tongues though he does speak a lot, evidently in his private devotions. Where the Corinthians were seeing their public use of tongues as a mark of their high spirituality. Paul shows them that it is a sign, but a sign of God’s judgment on their prideful self-indulgence! Hearing Babylonian in the streets of Jerusalem in 586 BC was a sign that God’s judgment had come to sinful Judah (he quotes Isaiah 28:11 a statement of His judgment in 14:21). Similarly, it is not a blessable thing if unbelievers hear all the confusion of public tongues and walk away thinking the people and their God is crazy.

So I’m thinking tongues is private prayer and praise to God in an unknown language.

That’s what I’m thinking in outline. I’d love to get input!