Monday, 13 January 2014

Why Young People Leave The Church After Leaving School

An interesting, honest view - from one of the creators of Veggie Tales, no less.

I don't like talking in silver bullet terms like this video suggests. Nevertheless, hat off to him for having the humility and guts to publically think it all through again from the bottom up.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Thought on Speaking in Tongues

Before I continue, I want to declare I am no expert in this stuff - this posting is just a personal reflection / conclusion on musings to date - it is a work in progress. :-) I am happy to be corrected if error is found in the ensuing words.


Whilst the "gift of tongues" is held by many Christians as a Biblical thing, the phenomenon of speaking in tongues is not the exclusive preserve of modern charismatic Christianity or even just Christianity. Other non-Christian religious movements use it too. It's easy to forget in a secular and functionally atheist Britain that just because a person speaks in tongues, doesn't make them "Christian." There are plenty of other "spiritual practices" that include tongues which do not find their origin in the heart of God or the Bible.

So the key is not can you or can't you speak in tongues, but if you can, how are you doing it and is it the Spirit of God who has given it to you or is it from another source?

Before I continue, I want to state clearly, that I do not believe that "speaking in tongues" is the mark of a "real" Christian. Receiving, loving and confessing that Jesus is Lord is.

That said, I do believe it is a gracious spiritual gift, which should be eagerly pursued (1 Cor. 14:1) and is received often, but not exclusively, by the laying on of hands. When this is done right and well, along with all God's spiritual gifts - both natural and supernatural, it builds up God's people both individually and corporately.

If it is true that the practice of tongues is not the universal preserve of the church, then how do we do it to the glory of God?  And how do we know if we are posessed of the Spirit of God, or a different spirit?

To put it another way, when a Hindu sits down to a meal he will no doubt thank one or many a deity from the Hindu pantheon for providing him with that food. A Christian will give thanks to the God revealed in Jesus Christ for his meal. Both men are eating, but doing it with different affections in the heart.

I realise I am about to paint with a broad brush, but... In many ecstatic religious movements, the aim is to empty your head, and to get to a trance often with the help of intoxicating (often illegal) substances and mood music (come to think of it, rather like a nightclub.) Speaking in tongues may form part of the journey to that trance or be the result of getting there. Whichever it is, the aim is to open yourself up to spiritual powers and to be posessed by them for the sake of gaining some blessing or power.

But Biblical spiritual gifts are a response to the revelation of God and a result of being filled with the Spirit of God for the love of God and the benefit of the world, not a means of strong arming his attention or blessing. For a good illustration of this, compare Elijah to the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. The false prophets work themselves into a frenzy seeking to get impetuous Baal's attention so they can coax him into lighting the fire (kind of like this). Contrast that with Elijah, who God raised up as a man of prayer and filled with the Spirit for the task of calling the nation of Israel back to true worship. He simply glorifies God in his prayer and God answers mightily. The false prophets are all about their own efforts to attain, God's people are all about responding to his gracious initiation and doing everything to get in sync with what he is revealing and doing.

The God of the Bible is not interested in possession, at least not in the demonic, horror movie sense. He sends the Spirit to make his home with us, he knocks at the door of the heart, if we will only open the door and let him in. He wants to give us joy unspeakable and full of glory, to bring us into his counsel and share his heart with those who will receive him. Incredible when you think how big the Trinity is and how little we are.

My own best experiences of tongues are when God by his Spirit has impressed a truth of the Bible on me and helped me to see something of the weight, the depth and the glory of his salvation and the future hope to which we have been called, which I had never seen before and which leave me so overwhelmed that I cannot put intelligeable sentences together. (To be clear, I have never had a 2 Cor 12 style vision.) At that point, speaking in tongues is the only way I can bring "expression" to what I have been granted to see. (Rather like a boy running and holding on to an accelerating plane - either you have to let go or hold tight and take off) . My heart is full, my spirit rejoices, but my mouth can't keep up, unless it is transposed into another mode of expression.

It is also something I have witnessed at times of intense grief - prayers that go so deep intelligeable speech cannot express it as such.

Tongues given in public, must have an interpretation, otherwise it turns into powerplay, manipulation and abuse. I have never given a tongue for public interpretation in a church setting, nor have I ever interpreted one. I must confess that I have not eagerly desired it either. Not that I am proud of that, I'm just telling you where I'm at in my journey.

Most of all, Jesus said that true disciples shall be known by the fruit of their lives. The Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus. So judge a man not by the intensity of his tongues or any other supernatural activity, but by the growing fruit of the Holy Spirit in his life (Matt 12:33) and how that fruit is directed to God first and others second as per the great commandment (Luke 10:27). Does he exhibit increasing love for Jesus, increasing joy in Jesus, increasing peace in being united to Jesus, increasing patience to endure like Jesus, and wait on Jesus, increasing kindness and generosity of spirit toward Jesus, increasing goodness in believing Jesus, increasing faithfulness and gentleness towards Jesus and increasing self-control towards Jesus and by extension, showing all those qualities to others especially those in the "household of faith?"

Tongues, when employed in this context and for this purpose, as a means not an end, are a great blessing!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

"If the Theologian of the 16th Century was a Lawyer, the Theologian of the 21st is an Ad Man"

As an occasional preacher, I found this blog post absolutely fascinating on how the mentality of marketing seaps into the church. It kept me and Elli going in discussion for nearly two hours afterwards.

You'll need at least half an hour to read it and watch all the videos he includes to illustrate his points.

And a related but different TED talk about the danger of the TED talk. Hats off to TEDx for having such a subversive speaker!!  The danger is not in the talk itself, but the way it packages information and how that presentation makes us feel. Placeboes on a whole new level.