Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Discerning of Spirits

Points we gleaned from a chapter on the gift of the discerning of Spirits, in a book by Kenneth E. Hagin (if I understood it correctly):

The gift of the discerning of spirits is a vision of either the Spirit of God, or a human spirit, or an angelic spirit, or a demonic spirit. It enables us to see which spirit is behind a potential manifestation.

Not all visions are a manifestation of the gift of the discerning of spirits, but most manifestations of the gift of the discerning of spirits are visions.

The gift of the discerning of spirits is distinct from general visions, distinct from natural discernment, distinct from the inner witness of the Spirit, distinct from discernment learned by the Scriptures, and distinct from the gift of the word of knowledge.

The simple gift of prophecy contains no revelation: it is simply speaking with divine inspiration for the purpose of edification, exhortation and comfort.

The word of knowledge is revelation about facts past or present. The word of wisdom is revelation about future purposes in the mind of God. Therefore the word of wisdom is a stronger function than the word of knowledge, prophecy and the discerning of spirits.

All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are supernatural manifestations of the Spirit.

Useful Languages


Monday, 21 November 2011

A Tweet of T F Tenney

What u r by minutes hours and days is what u wi. b by years , and eventually eternally.(Rev.22:11)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Staying Free in the Spirit

"...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" - II Cor.3:17

In the process of learning to be led by the Holy Spirit, it's important we understand that the Holy Spirit gives us liberty - He doesn't bring us back under another type of fear and bondage. If we're not careful, that which was intended to give us liberty can end-up bringing us into another type of bondage. I'll explain...

Perhaps we were once bound by obligations and limited by our own thinking, and then we began to become free of it through learning to be led by the Holy Spirit. We began to experience the freedom and limitless blessing that come by following the Spirit instead of remaining bound by obligation or limited by our own understanding.

But then while enjoying the new lifestyle, if we're not careful, we can allow a fear of missing God's perfect leading to begin to negatively effect us. We can become nervous, harsh, irritable, judgmental, condemned, regretful, sorrowful, stressed and striving. That which was intended for our liberty turns into bondage.

The key is to remember that God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us, to empower us, to make us happier - not to give us a harder set of rules to follow.

It can happen in church-life too. For example, in the pre-reformation days when much of the Church was bound by the wrong belief that only the ordained clergy could minister in the church, God began revealing to believers that anyone can contribute to a church-service even if he's a layman. So the Brethren Church was inaugurated in order to have a freer, more blessed type of church-service where any of the brethren could contribute as the Spirit leads.

But in their zeal to cherish that new concept of freedom, some of the Brethren went too far and felt it's wrong to ordain a pastor. In an effort to protect their newfound revelation about the liberty of the brethren, they created another stringent rule of their own: that it's wrong to have a Senior Pastor. It negatively affected some of their consciences and hindered the growth of some of their congregations. Some Brethren churches got free of it, ordained pastors, and grew.

Whole denominations have been founded because they mistook a leading of the Holy Spirit to be a hard-set rule. For example, a century or so ago someone saw in the Word that preachers went two-by-two and didn't preach in buildings. Instead of understanding that that was a helpful, Spirit-led strategy at the time, he applied it as an unalterable rule: that all preachers should travel two-by-two, and the church should never own real estate. The group now has thousands of followers all around the world, because their preachers did get out and evangelize - but they are in bondage because there's nothing wrong with owning real estate and there's nothing wrong with a preacher traveling alone or in a larger group than two. Something that Jesus was led by the Spirit to do on one occasion was turned into bondage by them. Jesus never meant all evangelistic teams always had to consist of exactly two people (Jesus Himself often had a larger team; so did Paul - and sometimes they both ministered alone).

The Welsh revival of 1904 is another example. It was started because someone learned to be led by the Holy Spirit. Every effort was made to allow the Spirit to lead the meetings. There was great freedom. Consequently God manifested greatly. But then the leader of the revival began to feel stressed about following the Spirit exactly - so stressed that he had to take a break from the ministry and never again returned to the ministry. A revelation about the leading of the Holy Spirit produced perhaps the greatest revival the world has ever seen - but becoming stressed about the leading of the Holy Spirit hindered a great revivalists' emotional health and ministry.

So the key is to remember that the purpose of the Holy Spirit's leading is not to give us a new type of stringency, but to free us from stringency in order to experience greater blessing. We don't have to let something that was intended for our freedom make us more miserable than we were before!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!
He is not a spirit of bondage and fear. He is the Spirit of power, love and of a sound mind.

If you find yourself becoming stressed, confused, fearful, judgmental, stringent - then give yourself a break and remind yourself that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of freedom, power, love and of a sound mind.

We are not justified by following external instructions - even if we feel the instructions are coming from the Holy Spirit. We are already justified freely by His grace. We don't lose our sonship entirely just because we feel we've missed a prompting of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the Holy Spirit is given to us to enhance our happiness. He helps us express the fullness of the blessing which we already have in us. He is given to confirm that we are already justified. He is not a new set of rules. He is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost! He leads us in order to help us enjoy the freedom already purchased for us. Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Peace Comes Before Receiving

The temptation to be anxious ought to be resisted just the same as any other temptation.

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."

If we do that, then "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

From that point onwards, what do we do? Keep being anxious? Keep praying about the same worry over and over? What we are to do then, is:

"...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

It's up to us to decide what and how we think!

If we do what we have both "learned, and received, and heard, and seen" then "the God of peace shall be with you."

Prayer and Faith

Sometimes praying shows a lack of faith. Often it's just an expression of worry. Expressing our worries to God doesn't obtain anything - but casting our cares on the Lord does. Casting our cares on the Lord means we don't care for it anymore. If we still care for it, then we haven't cast it upon the Lord. Cast it upon Him - and leave it there! If we've cast our care upon Him, we won't need to pray about it anymore. Instead of asking God about it again, we can just confess that we have whatever we've asked, and thank Him for it. Once we've prayed and asked and cast our care upon the Lord, it shows more faith to do nothing - just to speak positively and to thank God - rather than to ask again. This is the rest of faith.

Sometimes fear may tempt us to go and pray about it again. But doing so negates our confidence that we believe we have already received what we asked for. It puts us back in a position of having-without. Instead, seeing we know we have received, we should just stand our ground and say, "Oh no, Devil - I don't need to pray about that again, because I believe I've already received what I asked for. I don't need to worry about it, because I've already cast my cares upon the Lord."

The Spirit of Jesus is God

Only God is omnipresent. An angel cannot be omnipresent. A man cannot be omnipresent. But God's Spirit is omnipresent. And the Bible says that Christ is in you and He is in me, if we believe. The Spirit of Christ is in all believers all over the world. Therefore, Christ - the Spirit of Christ - is omnipresent. Therefore, Christ is not a mere angel nor a mere man - Christ is divine. Jesus is God!

If someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. To receive the Spirit of Christ, you have to believe that it is possible for all believers all around the world to receive Him. In order to believe that to be possible, you have to believe that Jesus is divine. He's not just an angel - not just a man. Jesus is God.

Jesus is equal with God in one sense - and yet in another sense He said the Father is greater than He and most often the title God goes to the Father. Yet Jesus Christ is God in every sense. And there is only one God. In order to be saved, this needs to be believed in the heart, even though one might not be able to explain it with his understanding.

Jesus - God's Firstborn

"Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" - Psalm 89:27

The Scripture prophesied that God would make Him (Jesus) His firstborn. If the clause "...make him my firstborn..." referred to the time when Jesus was to begin His existence, the Scripture would not have said "...I will make him my firstborn..." - it would have simply said, he will be born.

But notice it didn't just say Jesus would be born - it says He would make Him something - make Him His firstborn. To make somebody something, the person has to already be in existence!

"...make him my firstborn..." is a clause that looked forward to the future, not back to the past. Therefore the clause could not have referred to some past event before the creation of the heavens and the earth at which time Jehovah's Witnesses allege Jesus began His existence.

Neither can the clause infer that Jesus' virgin-birth was the beginning of His existence - because someone has to already be in existence before you can make him something.

Jesus has existed eternally with the Father, and the Scripture prophesied that God would make Him His firstborn. To make Him His firstborn means that although Jesus pre-existed eternally with God, God sent Him into the world as the only person ever to be born of a virgin, and that God would demonstrate that He (Jesus) is indeed the eternal Son of God - that Jesus existed eternally and that Jesus is Himself God. It means that God would demonstrate Jesus' pre-eminence not only on the basis of His pre-existence, not only on the basis of His person, but also on the basis of God's unfolding plan, and also on the basis of Jesus' own conquest by the will of God.

The Scriptures therefore support that Jesus has always existed and that Jesus is God.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

What it Means to Let the Spirit Move

Singing about the Holy Spirit, and letting the Holy Spirit move, are not necessarily the same thing - sometimes they are two different things. Sometimes the Holy Spirit wants to move - but instead of letting Him move, we keep singing about letting Him move. We can sing a song, "Welcome Holy Spirit". But singing that He is welcome does not mean we are welcoming Him.

A meeting leader can say, "You are welcome in this place, Holy Spirit." But saying that He is welcome does not mean He is welcome.

Welcoming Him means to deliberately give Him time in the service to do what He wants.

Sometimes that involves stopping what we're already doing - because sometimes two things can't happen as well together.

It's hard to sing or talk, and drink a glass of water at the same time! Similarly, singing can get in the way of receiving from the Holy Spirit.

Praying and interceding can get in the way too. If we want to pray but the Holy Spirit wants to do something else in the meeting, then our praying can be a hindrance. Speaking in tongues, doing warfare, dancing, giving announcements or news, and preaching can all get in the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to do. Sometimes those things are exactly what the Holy Spirit wants us to do - but at other times He wants to do something different.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit will interrupt what we are doing and do what He wants anyway. When He does, we can be aware of it and can flow with Him rather than carry on with what we were doing and obstruct Him.

At other times, the Holy Spirit will wait for us to let Him move. Letting the Holy Spirit move is something we can do on purpose. When we make room for the Holy Spirit to do what He wants to do in our meetings, on purpose - it shows we are practically welcoming Him. When we deliberately give Him time to move, it shows we have a desire and are acting our faith that He will move. Then He will move.

So we can help or hinder the move of the Spirit in our meetings.

Sense what He wants to do at any given point in the meeting, and when you sense it, flow with it 100%. Encourage the congregation to flow with it. If the musicians keep playing, make sure they are helping the congregation to flow with Him. If the congregation is meant to be receiving from the Spirit or manifesting the Spirit in other ways, then if the band is encouraging the congregation to sing instead, it can be a hindrance.

That's the reason we sometimes see a greater manifestation of the Spirit when the music stops. It shows the music wasn't functioning as a 'ministry of helps'. It was dominating the proceedings of the meeting, rather than assisting the will of the Spirit.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Speaking in Tongues Gets You in the Flow

I've noticed that people who spend time speaking in an unknown tongue, are more likely to speak by the Spirit when they speak with their understanding too. They are more likely to be led supernaturally by the Spirit - in the way they run a meeting, and in their life and ministry. They are more likely to facilitate the manifestation of the Spirit in a meeting.

When we spend time speaking in an unknown tongue, it becomes easier to speak in the Spirit with our understanding - and it becomes easier to move in the Spirit and to be led by the Spirit.

Speaking in an unknown tongue exercises our spirit and yields our tongue to the Spirit. When you've been used to yielding your spirit to the Holy Spirit by praying in an unknown tongue, it feels more and more natural to yield your tongue to the Holy Spirit even when you're speaking with your understanding. It feels similar - only it's your known language that you are speaking rather than an unknown language. But it's a Holy Ghost thing you are saying.

Speaking in an unknown tongue places both your spirit and body (your tongue) in subjection to the perfect flow of the Holy Spirit. When your spirit becomes used to how that feels, you quickly notice the same flow of the Spirit even when He wants you to say something with your understanding. You quickly notice how it feels when the Spirit wants to move a certain way in a meeting - because you've learned to recognize the feeling of being perfectly yielded to the Spirit. Your spirit also notices it if something is outside the flow of the Spirit.

And the next step, after speaking by the Spirit, is to move in the Spirit or to be led by the Spirit - both in our lives or ministry, and in the way we run our meetings.

Spending time speaking in an unknown tongue gets our spirit used to being in the flow of the Spirit, used to being yielded to the Spirit, used to being in the employ of the Spirit. So the more used we are to flowing in the Spirit with our spirit in one sense (in an unknown tongue), the easier it will be for us to flow in the Spirit with our spirit in another sense (in a known tongue, or in the way we run a meeting).

Speaking in tongues therefore prepares your spirit to be able to speak by revelation with your understanding. Speaking in tongues makes it easier to yield to the flow - makes it easier to allow Him space to do what He wants to do in a meeting - to manifest the way He desires.

So get used to speaking with your spirit in an unknown tongue. Let it become as natural as thinking - as natural as breathing. Then it won't feel very different to speak in the Spirit with your understanding also. It will feel easier to yield to the way the Holy Spirit wants to manifest in a meeting. It will feel easier to yield to the way He wants to guide your ministry and your whole life.

"I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all," said Paul.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Australia is Ministry Preparation Ground

Australia is like a slingshot. Before you can shoot the stone forwards, you first have to pull it back - in the opposite direction. Once you've pulled it back far enough, you can then release it - and it will shoot outwards - forwards, where you want it to go, faster than you can imagine. It will hit the target with speed and accuracy.

Being in Australia can be good training-ground for a person's future ministry to the nations. Being in Australia might feel like a step backwards, like a step in the opposite direction to your desired destiny in ministry; it might feel like you're just biding your time - like you're not doing the kinds of things you want to be doing. But the purpose for this season of retreat might be only so that you can hit your target with the needed speed, force and accuracy.

The stone wouldn't achieve nearly as much if you throw it forward straightaway without first pulling it back in the sling - in the opposite direction - and then release it.

The Impact of One Holy Ghost Word

Last night at the prayer meeting, Pastor Jonas advised that sometimes, rather than preach a long, prepared sermon, it is better instead to just feel the Holy Ghost and speak only what He says, even if it's short - even if it's only a single sentence.

Pastor Jonas testified that one day when he was visiting the Philippines, a pastor approached him and told him that he had spoken a single sentence to him years ago. The pastor told Pastor Jonas that that one sentence impacted his life so much that many, many churches have since been planted as a result. And Pastor Jonas honestly doesn't even remember what the sentence was!

Another person told Pastor Jonas that he once told him, "Stealing is a sin." That one sentence had such an impact in the person's life, he told Pastor Jonas, that he became a pastor as a result. (The person had also had time to observe Pastor Jonas' life, and had also heard Pastor Jonas on TV - nevertheless it was that one sentence which he said impacted his life and which resulted in him becoming a pastor.)

Just one sentence, spoken by the Holy Ghost, can have such an impact!

"Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:" (Acts 1:2).

We too can speak through the Holy Ghost!

Short or long - Holy Ghost words sometimes make more impact than a well-structured, prepared lecture or sermon.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Quotes from Dr Rodney Howard-Browne

"People don't know about travailing prayer now."

"You are dispensers of the Holy Ghost".

"I'm not here to put the fire out - there are other preachers who can do that".

"Pentecost is real - I love its narrow way".

"If you don't get it on the inside, you're never going to get it on the outside".

"...the devil hates the Holy Ghost - because he knows about the Holy Ghost."

"The Holy Ghost will get you through".

Supplication in the Spirit

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

Paul said to pray always.

Then he said to pray with all prayer. There are different types of prayer. One type of prayer Paul mentioned is 'supplication in the Spirit'.

There is such a thing as supplication in the Spirit. Supplication in the Spirit is when the Holy Spirit leads us into a special time of supplication, for a specific person, for a special purpose. Supplication in the Spirit is one form of prayer which we can make ourselves available for.

One way the Holy Spirit may lead us to make supplication, is in an unknown tongue. Another way is with our understanding. Another way is a combination of both. The Holy Spirit makes intercession for the saints with groanings that cannot be uttered. When we make ourself available, the Spirit, who knows the mind of God, helps us when we are humanly unable to know what to pray for as we ought.

One thing we can sometimes be led of the Spirit to supplicate for is that a certain person whom God has called into the ministry will be granted utterance.

Another thing we can be led of the Spirit to supplicate for is that a certain minister may speak as he ought - for example, that he may speak boldly.

We can be led by the Spirit - we can supplicate in and with the the Spirit - that God can enable a certain minister, or ministry or church to do what God wills for him to do as he ought to do it.

Examples: a small number of ladies prayed-in the 1879 revival which impacted Ireland; Evan Roberts prayed-in the 1904 revival. They were led of the Spirit, and prayed in the Spirit and with the Spirit for revival - and it happened.

Another lady prayed for a full-Gospel church to start in every town - and it came to pass.

Another thing we can supplicate for is all saints. The Spirit can lead us to pray with the Spirit - to pray-out a perfect plan of God - for any particular saint, or group of saints. Sometimes while we pray in the Spirit, He will impress upon our minds a knowledge of God's will. Other times, we may pray instead in an unknown tongue.

Then Paul said to watch unto the same with all perseverance. This kind of prayer may require watching and perseverance. There is another kind of prayer which does not.

For example, if you are believing something for yourself, something which you desire, and you ask and believe you have received it, then you shall receive it - there is no necessity for watching in the same thing. You just know that you've received it. That's the prayer of asking - for yourself - for something that you desire.

But 'supplication in the Spirit' for all saints - or for a specific minister or church - requires watching because there is more involved than just your own faith and your own ability to receive from God. You're dealing with another person or persons. They have their own will, struggles, trials, temptations and faith. They can have their ups and downs which you cannot control directly any more than you have the right to tell another person how he must arrange the furniture in his house.

When it's something you are asking for for yourself, you can pray and believe you receive it and you shall have it - no watching required. But when it comes to supplicating for others, we can't control what they do, therefore watching is required - an awareness of progress - even an awareness at times of the devil's schemes, is required.

And that takes perseverance. Sometimes the devil does hinder - through no fault of our own; and sometimes through no fault of the person we are praying for either. Sometimes it takes time before Satan is bruised underfoot of a certain Christian community. Nevertheless if we persevere in watching and persevere in all types and occasions of supplication in the Spirit for all saints, we can successfully partner with God in seeing His specific will accomplished - for, in and through one of His people whom we are supplicating for.

Make yourself available to the Spirit on-purpose for this type of prayer. You may even see the results with your own eyes!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Hand of the Lord

The hand of the Lord is with you. The hand of the Lord is the Holy Spirit. Therefore when you speak, the Lord will confirm your word with manifestations of the Spirit following. You will see!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Hunting as Sport

I understand - hunting can prove your prowess. Still, it would have been a fairer competition if the animal was armed with an automatic rifle too, don't you think?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

All These Things in This Generation?

Preterists claim that Jesus said everything He predicted (in Matthew 24) had to be fulfilled within the first-century generation.

"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:34)

But does the text really say that?

Imagine if I told you that I intend to go to college, go on a world holiday, and then return and start a family business.

And you ask me, "When are you going to do all these things? And how are you going to advertise the new business?"

And I answer by telling you how I'm going to advertise the new business, and I tell you that before that, I'm going to college.

And then I say that before going to college, I'm first going to finish high school, get some part-time work, and enter an ameteur bodybuilding competition - I'm going to do all these things before this year is over.

It is obvious that when I say I'm going to do all these things this year, it doesn't refer to every topic I ever mentioned in my entire conversation with you - it refers only to the things I was discussing in that particular paragraph.

It didn't mean I'm going to complete high school, complete part-time work, complete college, return from an overseas holiday, and set-up the family business - all by the end of this year. More likely, it just meant all the things leading up to starting college - because that's what I was discussing with you in that particular paragraph.

Similarly, when Jesus said "this generation shall not pass away before all these things are fulfilled", I'm wondering whether the text really necessitates that He meant all things in the entire chapter - or could He just as well have meant only the things in His latest paragraph?

After all, the disciples had asked Him more than one question! And Jesus did chop and change between addressing the different questions.

If this is textually/linguistically allowable, could it then be possible that all of the things relevant to the disciples' first question (concerning the destruction of the Temple and the scattering of the Jews) indeed came to pass within the first-century generation - while the things relevant to the disciples' other questions (concerning the end of the world, and His coming) may not necessarily have had to be fulfilled within that generation?

Admittedly, the language in both Daniel and in the Olivet discourse doesn't seem to make too much of any potential time-span between the themes they were discussing. But does the text really necessitate that no time-span was possible?

I think there actually are indications - clauses in the texts (both the Lord's and Daniel's) - which could just as well indicate that an indefinite period of time could potentially span between some of the themes they were discussing. There are some clauses in the texts which might actually be indicative of that. I have examples in mind, but I won't mention them here and now.

This seems all the more possible when we remember that both the Lord Jesus and also the angel who spoke to Daniel, despite being able to give an approximate time-frame for certain themes which they'd been asked about, were not able to give as specific a time-frame for certain other themes they were asked about. Jesus actually admitted this. That means that even if in the Father's foreknowledge, there was to be a long span of time between some of the themes, Jesus and the angel could not have said very much to indicate exactly how long the time span would be. But the main things is: did they say anything in the text which precludes the possibility of a time span? That is something I'm personally investigating.

And as I've said above, while there are clauses in the texts which indicate that certain themes had to be fulfilled within a specific time frame, there also appear to be certain clauses in the texts which do seem to indicate a potential span of time between certain themes.

If this is linguistically allowable, then it might be possible that some things in Daniel and in the Olivet discourse are indeed exclusively now already fulfilled (as is claimed by preterism), while other clauses may hint at an ongoing state (as is claimed by historicism), and other things may be exclusively yet to happen in the future after all (as is claimed by futurism). But the entire chapter would not fit exclusively into just one of the classic categories. Rather, each part of the chapter would fit appropriately into its own time-frame category - past, ongoing or future - depending on the clause that qualifies it.

If so, this would allow us to accept that the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the scattering of the Jews are indeed now already fulfilled - while at the same time allow us to see that the second coming and the resurrection are indeed still future events - and that the preaching of the Gospel to all nations continues to span the period in-between (tribulations and persecutions also continue to span the period in between).

This could eliminate the modern problem of repeatedly failing end-times predictions - and maintain the orthodox hope of the future coming of the Lord and of the resurrection at the same time.

I'm still investigating whether the texts of Daniel and the Olivet discourse allows this linguistically. There are still some difficult passages. But so far the possibility still seems worth investigating.

Friday, 14 October 2011

How to Encourage Yourself

"David encouraged himself..."

There are ways to encourage ourself!

How did David do so? "David encouraged himself IN THE LORD HIS GOD."

We can encourage ourself too - in the Lord.

Now the Lord is that Spirit. We can get in the Lord by getting in the Spirit. One way we can get in the Spirit is by praying in the Spirit - and one way we can pray in the Spirit is by praying with our spirit in other tongues. When we pray with other tongues, our spirit prays as the Spirit gives utterance.

Therefore praying with tongues is one way we can encourage ourself in the Lord. You can encourage yourself by praying in tongues!

Fret Not

David wrote: "For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: NO GOOD THING WILL HE WITHHOLD from them that walk uprightly."

Since the Lord withholds no good thing from them that walk uprightly, then if something has been withheld from an upright person, then it wasn't good - or the timing wasn't good.

Either way, it's a win for the upright! So don't fret. Just keep doing right.

Love-Based Conversation

"He that covereth a transgression SEEKETH LOVE".

In all our conversation, we can seek love. When love is both the source and objective of all that we say and do, it will guide our speech and action with a unique wisdom. Love provides a guiding-wisdom that knowledge alone does not provide - the wisdom of love; the ways of love; the tact and strategy of love.

And love never fails!


Paul wrote that the dead in Christ were awaiting the resurrection. That means they had not yet experienced the resurrection.

The dead in Christ had already experienced a spiritual resurrection before they died, during their life in Christ on earth; and after their death, they had already begun experiencing a spiritual resurrection in heaven - yet there was still a future resurrection awaiting them, wrote Paul.

Paul explained that Christ shall bring them with Him when He comes; then they shall rise; then we which are alive and remain shall be reunited with them and with the Lord forever.

We look forward to this event with all our hearts!

The Olivet Discourse and Subsequent History

The Olivet discourse includes details that were relevant to the questions which it addressed - but that does not mean that other things weren't also to happen, other things not necessarily mentioned in detail in the discourse.

For example, the discourse includes mention of natural calamities and persecutions - but that does not mean there could not also be seasons of relative calm and that the Church could not ever experience acceptance and enjoy positive influence, in certain places at certain times.

The scope of an answer needs to be understood by the scope of the question itself. The Olivet discourse answered a question which was prompted by the disciples' surprise at hearing that the Temple would be destroyed. It was a surprise to the disciples that the ensuing years could even include any real hardship at all. Their expectations of the kingdom were different. So Jesus sought to enhance their understanding of the nature of how things would transpire, which included telling them about calamity and persecution - but that didn't mean better things couldn't also be experienced to varying degrees in varying places at varying times.

Therefore the Gospel-message and the Christian-outlook is not one of Dominion-now hyper-optimism - but neither is it one of gnostic-type dis-attachment from the physical here and now.

Yes, there is going to be calamity and persecution this side of the second coming - but that doesn't mean that things like getting married, having a family, and wishing to prosper, do business, and govern nations are inconsistent with Gospel-living. Christian-living can overflow into these areas as well.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Financial Crisis and the End of the World

There's something you've gotta like about Alessio Rastani!

Indeed, a market downturn can be the greatest opportunity for someone who sees the right strategy. Hedging, government securities, perhaps derivatives too - but I especially concur with Rastani's advice to strengthen one's assets. It's refreshing when someone can see both sides, instead of seeing only the other side.

Several years ago, right before the Global Financial Crisis hit, many preachers were prophesying about a ''great wealth transfer" that was allegedly about to take place from the wicked to the righteous. But today some of those same preachers are preaching doomsday. I prefer it when someone doesn't merely reflect the mood of the media, but can see the possibilities more objectively.

So, good on Rastani! Some are calling him all sorts of bad names, but others are calling him sensible. He seems to have both eyes open - seeing Europe's problems with one eye, yet seeing the possibilities with the other. See video.

I know it's pretty boring not to make sensational claims - but I personally feel it's not possible to predict exactly what is going to happen. Everyone agrees America's economy has seen some serious downturns in recent years. But that doesn't mean America's economy is the worst in the world. Far from it! I do think America and Europe could be headed for some more difficult times ahead. But even if the worst-case scenario does end-up happening, it won't necessarily mean the end of the world. It could - or it might not.

History has seen worse than this before, yet human civilization went on. This is not even a real crisis, if you know what I mean. A real crisis is when the ground cannot produce - due to fire, flood, famine, drought, earthquake, or war. The current global financial crisis is not caused by any of those things - it ism't even affecting any of those things. It's only about credit. So even if worse comes to worst, people will still be able to grow food - especially in America.

It wouldn't necessarily mean that the Antichrist must emerge in our generation. He could - or he might not (assuming the futurist eschatological-model). There was once a time when America didn't even exist - yet believe it or not, the Antichrist didn't rise in those days. Europe also has seen worse times - yet the Antichrist did not emerge in those days. Previous generations have seen currency crashes, world wars and empires unite - but it came and went in cycles while human civilization went on. Human civilization could survive a worst-case scenario in our generation too.

Even in the futurist model of eschatology itself, Antichrist cannot actually arise until the restrainer is removed - and it seems futurists can't agree on who or what the restrainer is. So since they don't seem to know for sure whether the restrainer is currently being removed, it must be even more difficult for them to conclude that the Antichrist must already be alive.

Also in the futurist model, the rise of the beast is preceded by a few years of worldwide earthquakes, wars, and cosmic upheaval affecting a full third of the world's oceans and water. The rise of the beast was not preceded by mere credit crisis.

But it's possible those passages of Scripture could have a different application. The end of the world can happen only when God wills - and I don't think He's telling us when it will be.

That's why evangelists are out there getting souls ready - because the end could come even sooner than many end-times preachers may be thinking.

"The Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not," said Jesus.

Eschatology and Social Action

I agree that hyper-futurism can weaken a person's social vision. But I think part-preterism or part-futurism, and not full-preterism, is sufficient to restore a basis for social vision.

Full-preterism and dominionism sees social reform as the kingdom of God on earth, and doesn't look forward to any special future arrival of the kingdom. Hyper-futurism perceives very little of the kingdom in society, prior to the second coming, except for in the spirit of a believer and in the church.

But I feel both are extreme. I think it's wrong to say that there won't be a day when the kingdom and the King will come openly and in perfection. But I think it's also wrong to say that there is no expression of God's kingdom at all outside of believers' spirit and the church.

I think of it this way:

1) the kingdom is in believers (individually, and corporately in the church);

2) the kingdom is being expressed through believers (and to varying degrees is shaping family, tribe, nation, business, government and nation); and

3) one day the kingdom and King shall arrive literally, openly, perfectly.

I see all three.

Future Things

When it comes to future things and eschatology, I feel sure of some things, but still uncertain about others.

I'm sure there is existence after death. I'm sure everyone shall face judgment after death. And I'm sure judgment is eternal.

About other things, I might change my mind in future as I learn more, but this is where I'm leaning at the moment:

I feel that in Matthew 24, the disciples seem to have asked Jesus three questions, questions concerning: 1) the end of the world, 2) His coming and 3) "these things" ("these things" meaning, the destruction of the Temple and city).

In Matthew 24 Jesus proceeds to discuss the signs and timing of each of those three things. Jesus didn't seem to say that all three things would necessarily happen together. Jesus even used some clauses which seem to be bridging-statements which span the indefinite period of time between events.

His prediction about the destruction of the Temple and city appear now to be past; His coming and the end of the world it seems are still future - but in between, Jerusalem continues to be trodden under foot by Gentiles, the Gospel continues to be preached in all nations, and persecutions also continue.

I feel it could be a mistake therefore to place all events in Matthew 24 in the past; it could also be a mistake to place it all in the future - and it could also be a mistake to claim all events keep repeating themselves. In other words, the preterist, historicist and futurist dogma are each wrong.

Rather, I feel it may be better to say that some events are now past; that others are yet future - and that some things Jesus mentioned appear to span the period in-between.

Jesus Himself did not know how much time would span between events. Daniel didn't know either. Neither did the angel who spoke to Daniel. Only the Father knows.

Therefore Jesus was able to give some fairly definite signs concerning the destruction of the Temple - but He was unable to give an indication of how much time would elapse until His coming.

But both Jesus and Daniel were able to describe what happens in-between: namely, the preaching of the Gospel and trials - and then the end shall come, possibly including a general physical resurrection of all the dead.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Steve Jobs - Modern Capitalist Par Excellence

Whether one realizes it or not, everyone who feels gratitude in his or her heart today, worldwide, for Steve Jobs, feels gratitude for freedom, feels gratitude for capitalism par excellence - whether one cares to acknowledge it or not.

Everyone who has ever had anything to do with Apple or Apple products, has done so voluntarily, profitably or happily - from inception to consumer, and everyone in between.

The amazing thing is no-one has ever been forced to have anything to do with Apple, at any level. Anyone who has ever chosen to have any involvement at any level with Apple has chosen so voluntarily. And everyone who chose so, has profited - or has perceived that they got what they wanted from the relationship - and mutually so. Everyone always feels delighted.

Without any coercion - in complete freedom - an intuitive quality product has been developed; a quality service is being provided - and everyone feels he has benefited - everyone feels happy. And today everyone is feeling the love.

America made this possible - Steve Jobs excelled at it - and we all know we've benefited from it.

That's Steve Job, that's Apple, that's capitalism, that's freedom, that's America.

And all of it is owed to Jesus Christ our Lord. To the glory of God our Father!

Can you say Amen.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Must American Debt Mean the End of the World?

A friend posted on Facebook:

"US Closes 2010-2011 Fiscal Year With $14,790,340,328,557.15 In Debt, $95 Billion Jump On The Day, $1.2 Trillion Increase In One Year & that is excluding the EU southern member states debt! Could we even count that many stars in the night sky".

Someone else said:

"Many are not prepared for what's coming."

"...the person the anti-Christ I believe he is living right now....."

Some of my thoughts:

Allow me to introduce some comparative figures which may help to bring some perspective to America's situation:

Yes, America's external debt is about $14.8 trillion. It sounds extremely high - but EU's isn't far behind at $13.7 trillion.

Remember also that America creates an enormous amount of wealth each year. America's total external debt is actually only about 99% of its GDP - but Norway's debt stands at 141% of GDP; Germany's at 142%; Britain's is 400%; and Luxembourg's is 3,443%.

Our own debt in Australia stands at 95% of our GDP. Therefore America's debt as a percentage of GDP is really not too different to Australia's (only 4% higher) and is far lower than much of Europe's.

I just did a quick calculation - America's debt per capita - although its debt sounds huge - is actually less than $48,000 per person. By comparison, Germany's debt per capita is higher at nearly $58,000. France's debt per capita stands at $75,000. Britain's is over $144,000 per capita; and Luxembourg's debt per capita stands at nearly $3.8million.

Australia's debt per capita is over $52,000. That means America's debt per capita is actually nearly $4,000 lower than Australia's and far lower than much of Europe's.

America's debt per capita is actually $700 lower than its GDP per capita. Australia's debt per capita is nearly $12,000 higher than its GDP per capita, and the disparity between per capita debt and per capita GDP in much of Europe is even greater.

America's external debt situation in and of itself is actually therefore better than Australia's and siginificantly better than much of Europe's. It's just that the American media is more alarmist about its own situation than our media in Australia is about our situation - because that's the nature of free-speech in America. I love it that American society is so alert and so vocal about signs of potential danger - nevertheless, the reality is that America is still in a better position than most strong economies around the world.

The nature of free-speech in America means that much of the criticism of America comes from within America itself. But that's not necessarily a reflection of America's latent strength and unity.

Having said that, wisely managing debt of course is an important issue. Australia's situation was far better under the previous Coalition government than under Labor. America could experience consequences more serious than many are imagining if it doesn't return to more-conservative fiscal management - and perhaps experience another spiritual awakening. But the cause of the problem was not capitalism, and therefore the solution will not be socialism - and it wouldn't necessarily mean the end of the world.

Socialists and end-time pundits take note. And may God bless America.

US External Debt in Perspective

America's external debt has reached $14,825,308,000,000.

Some are saying America is in a worse predicament that Europe. Some are even predicting the end of the world.

But allow me to introduce some figures which may help to bring some perspective to America's situation:

America's external debt is indeed about $14.8 trillion - but EU's isn't far behind at $13.7 trillion.

America's external debt is only about 99% of its GDP - but Norway's debt stands at 141% of GDP; Germany's at 142%; Britain's is 400%; and Luxembourg's is 3,443%.

Australia's debt stands at 95% of GDP. Therefore America's debt as a percentage of GDP is comparable to Australia's (only 4% higher).

I just did a quick calculation - America's debt per capita is less than $48,000. Germany's is higher at nearly $58,000 per capita. France's debt per capita stands at $75,000 per capita. Britain's is over $144,000; Luxembourg's debt per capita stands at nearly $3.8million.

Australia's debt per capita is over $52,000. That means America's debt per capita is actually nearly $4,000 lower than Australia's.

America's debt per capita is actually $700 lower than its GDP per capita. Australia's debt per capita is nearly $12,000 higher than its GDP per capita.

America's situation is actually better than Australia's and siginificantly better than much of Europe's.

The American media is more alarmist about its own situation than our media in Australia is about our situation - because that's the nature of free-speech in America. America is still actually in a better position than most strong economies around the world.

Wisely managing debt however of course is an issue with important consequences. Australia's situation was far better under the previous Coalition govenrment than under Labor. Recent elections in Europe have seen a major swing back towards conservative parties.

Socialists and end-times pundits take note!

And may God bless America.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Five Questions For Atheists About Science

Every now and then we hear atheists accuse people of not being scientific in their methods, simply because they believe in God. Here are five questions to see if atheism is really any more scientific:

1. Is it true that the scientific-method cannot be cited as grounds for a conclusion about something that can neither be observed, measured, qualified nor quantified?

2. Is it true that mankind has not yet been able to observe the most-distant body in the universe?

3. Can it be asserted therefore that God cannot be sitting on the other side of that body?

4. Isn't it true then that the philosophy of atheism cannot cite the scientific method as its basis?

5. Seeing it is not possible to assert that God cannot exist, is it possible that you could experience Him?

Five Questions for Atheists About Reality

1. Is it impossible that there could be a non-physical reality?

2. Is it impossible that a non-physical reality could exist that you don't know about?

3. Is it impossible that someone else could experience one such reality?

4. Is it impossible that God could be one such reality?

5. Is it impossible that you could experience God?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Is the Antichrist Living Right Now?

A Facebook Post from Dr Rodney Howard-Browne:

"The Spirit of Anti-Christ has been operational in the from the time of the fall of Lucifer - as far as the person the anti-Christ I believe he is living right now and will be revealed.............He will come on the scene as a "Messiah' we have seen little smatterings of that over the last few years in the church and out - great deception - the masses will go along without questioning. Unfortunately religious leaders and Pastors will follow him. It will be that subtle! I will add one more statement - some might like this and some might not - however it's a fact - if anyone is against the Holy Spirit they are Anti-christ !!!!!!!!!!!!"

I wonder: how is it possible to know the Antichrist is living right now? Just wondering.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Does the Bible Teach Gays Must be Executed?

Someone asked:

"Leviticus 20:13: 'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.'

Now the bible clearly says to kill gay people. Make no mistake about it. We know how fundies love to bag out on gay people. We see how the WBC loves to blame gay people for all of society's ills.

What I want to know is why do you fundies pay lip service to what god supposedly says? Why aren't you doing what god commands? Why aren't you killing gay people? What is your excuse?

My answer:

Let me answer the broader question which I think you are asking first, and then the case-specific question about gays next.

Christians don't enact Moses' Law to the letter, because the Bible itself explains that we are not meant to do so.

It needs to be understood that some of the early books in the Bible were written by Moses for the purpose of giving a civil law specifically to the nation of Israel and specifically for that time - his law was not intended for all people of all time. Later books in the Bible explain that Christians are not required to keep Moses' law to the letter. The Bible therefore is to be taken as a whole. It explains itself.

For example, in the book of Leviticus, Moses wrote for Israel a method of dealing with sin - they were to bring an offering and offer it on the altar. Moses intended this instruction for the citizens of Israel for that time - not for all people of all time. The New Testament, in the writings of Paul, explains that Moses' law of sin-offerings was only ever intended to be a temporary system, a system that was to be superseded once the true sacrifice for sin was made - which was the once-for-all sacrifice of God's own Son, for all of our sins, upon the cross. Christ's once-for-all offering for the sin of the whole world superseded the regular sin-offerings brought repeatedly by individuals under Moses' law.

The temporary system of law which Moses wrote for Israel was good. We can still learn a lot from its principles. And Christians will never break any of the underlying principles which it sought to convey. We fulfill the whole of Moses' law in principle, but we are not to express all of those principles using exactly the same outward forms that they used.

Comparing Moses' law with Jesus Himself and the lifestyle He creates in us, is like comparing a shadow of a person with the person Himself; like comparing a reflection of a person with the person Himself; like comparing a photo of a loved-one with the loved-one Himself. The reflection or the photo contains all the basics of what the person looks like - but when the loved-one Himself arrives, you don't keep admiring the reflection or the photo - you turn from it and turn to Him and embrace him. Similarly, Moses' law had the purpose of temporarily explaining certain important moral principles - but Jesus embodied it. Once He came, Israel was meant to turn from the outward rituals of Moses' law (rituals which illustrated Christ). By embracing Him, we embrace all that is good. Our lifestyle will then fulfill the same principles which Moses' law sought to teach - but we won't express those principles with precisely the same outward forms.

The basic rule, Jesus said, is love. If we always act in a loving way towards everyone, and embrace Jesus Christ as our Saviour, then our lifestyle will automatically fulfill the same underlying principles that were inherent in every point of Moses' law.

The New Testament explains this approach to Moses' law. If we don't take all of the books of the Bible into account, in regard to your question, it would be like reading a novel and after reading only two or three chapters, jumping to a conclusion about the plot. We have to read the whole novel to understand the novel. That's why Christians don't seek to enact Moses' law to the letter - because the overall teaching of the Bible explains otherwise. In principle, yes we do keep Moses' principles - but to the letter - in all of its outward forms - no we don't.

Now to the specific case of gays. Moses did stipulate the death penalty for sodomy. Why doesn't a Christian kill homosexuals, you ask. The reason is because while Christians believe homosexuality is unnatural, unfulfilling, morally wrong and not beneficial to the individual, to children, to families or to society, Christians believe (and Moses' law itself also taught this) that it is not an individual civilian's prerogative to take it into his own hands to punish wrong-doing. That role is vested exclusively with the civial authorities - with the society's judicial procedure - not with an individual. Vengeance belongs to God alone and to His appointed agents - it's not our place as individuals to punish wrongdoing. There must be a rule of law, not a system where individuals can go about taking vengeance according to their own whims and fancies.

So from a Christian, New Testament point of view, it would be out of place for me personally as an unelected, unappointed individual civilian to take it into my own hands to punish wrongdoing - wrongdoing such as murder, theft, adultery or sodomy.

But there is nothing wrong with Christians arguing for appropriate legislation to be put in place. And there is nothing wrong when the appropriate authorities punish wrongdoing appropriately.

Christians are united in their belief that wrong is wrong and that wrong should be legislated against and should be punishable by law. But some seem undecided concerning whether they see the death penalty as appropriate. My personal feeling is twofold: one, it can be argued that the death penalty is certainly deserved in some cases; and two, it is also a Biblical truth to say that mercy triumphs over judgment. So in regard to the question of capital punishment, I think there are a number of criteria which can be considered case-by-case without compromising both Mosaic law and Gospel truth. In other words, I think the death penalty needn't be considered inappropriate in some cases, and I also think there may be some cases where, if mercy is allowed to triumph over judgment, that also needn't be considered a breech of Biblical principle. I think it is possible to be consistent with the principles of Moses' law, and yet refrain from applying the death penalty in every case in which Moses' law stipulated it. There are cases where Moses' law stipulated the death penalty in which I think it would now be inappropriate to apply the death penalty and inconsistent with overall Biblical teaching. Then there are also cases where I think that to apply the death penalty needn't be considered inappropriate - but even in such cases, it sometimes mightn't be inappropriate to allow mercy to triumph over judgment. Perhaps we can discuss some of the criteria to be considered further some time. But I trust this suffices to answer your underlying question about how the Bible overall and different parts of it in particular were intended to be approached and applied.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The Bermudas

This week I met a friendly couple from the Bermudas. The Bermudas is the oldest British colony (1609); an island of only 20 sq mi - yet it has the world's highest GDP per capita. My thoughts: British colonialism wasn't all a bad thing in the region; and being a small, island-nation evidently is no cause for poverty.

The ingredients that make great nations haven't changed. The ingredients that made great nations in the past are the same ingredients that can still make nations great today. We only need to identify those ingredients - taking care not to throw-out the good with the bad - and once again include those ingredients in our own situation - and even improve on it.

God bless the UK and may God bless every small island-nation in the world! May all families and nations of the world be blessed in Him!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

God and Government

Are government and spirituality inseparable?

God promised Abraham that in his seed (Christ) all families of the earth would be blessed. The best blessing is justification. But wherever the blessing of justification has the opportunity to overflow into other areas of life besides an individual's spirit - areas such as business, family, relatives, tribe or nation (including a nation's government) it ought to be celebrated.

One example in history where we have seen an overflow of the spiritual work of Christ overflow from individuals into a nation and its government, is the example of the United States of America. Canada is another example. And Australia. And we are seeing it to varying degrees in every nation in the world. The Gospel is not only giving individuals the promise of eternal life - the affect of the Gospel is also overflowing from individuals, affecting nations at every level, for good - to varying degrees.

Celebrating our justification is by far the best thing. But where that has overflowed into other levels of national life too, let's celebrate that also!

So why not identify the type of godly impact that has been possible throughout history and the nations, wherever godliness has had the opportunity.

Persecution will be with us until Jesus comes. But in some countries, the church manages to overcome Satan's clutches on society to the extent that the Church begins to have an impact on all levels of society such as government.

Principles of governing are therefore no less spiritual than principles of parenting, or principles of self-discipline. The spiritual, inward work of the Gospel has a distinct overflow into national life, including into government - wherever the opportunity exists.

Praise God for places (nations) where that opportunity has arisen. And praise God for the positive impact on other nations through a nation where the Gospel has had the opportunity to impact its government.

For example, praise God for the positive impact on the world of nations like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - nations whose own governments have each historically experienced a positive impact from true followers of Christ (i.e., from the church).

Praise God for the positive impact of businesses operating on Biblical principles (capitalism).

And Praise God for the positive impact on other nations through the body of Christ in those nations.

But still the best thing is to be justified. Nothing compares with heaven.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Pastors and Ministry Gifts

1. I would say a person can be said to stand in a particular ministry office - such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher - if:

a) the person has a personal call and gift from God to stand in that office - and knows it;

b) the person is doing the stuff;

c) others eventually recognize it, including other leaders who are willing to endorse them; and

d) they are successful at it.

2. I think it's beneficial that a person correctly identifies his ministry gift; for example:

a) there is a difference between a believer who prophesies, and someone who occupies the office of a prophet. All believers may prophesy, including children - but a prophet is someone who is recognized as a leader in a church quite apart from his prophesying;

b) if someone is known to prophesy regularly using the simple gift of prophecy, yet does not occupy the office of prophet, then the person would be better to find his place as a member of a church-congregation rather than see himself as a prophet exercising a leadership role in a church;

c) there is a difference between someone who is called to plant a new church, and someone who is called to bring a specialist ministry to the body of Christ;

d) if someone is called to plant a church, then it will be successful - the congregation will be healthy and growing - and the church should ultimately have pastors and be led by pastors;

e) if someone is called to bring a specialist ministry rather than to plant a new church, then he should do so without attempting to plant a new church or to be a pastor; for example:

i) if the person is a gifted evangelist, better that he goes out and does the work of an evangelist rather than pastor or plant a church;

ii) if someone is called to bring revival and the presence of God to a city, then it's better if he holds meetings just to do that, and encourages people to belong to a church, rather than try to plant a church and pastor it - unless his primary calling is to plant a church or to be a pastor, ahead of his calling to bring refreshing to the body of Christ in the city (usually - there may be exceptions); A pastor may be able to do a little bit of evangelism, prophesying, hold revival and refreshing meetings, and short-term missions without prioritizing those things - but pastoring is not something a person can do just a little bit of without prioritizing it - pastoring is something that if it is going to be done at all, it must be prioritized - otherwise it won't be done adequately, and the congregation will be affected. Therefore if pastoring isn't a person's priority, then he probably shouldn't pastor or plant a church - he should instead focus on the specialist ministry God has given him (there can be exceptions, of course);

f) Just because a person decides to start a new church, or to pastor a church, does not necessarily mean God called and gifted him to be a pastor;

g) If he is not a pastor, then he ought to desire that everyone in his meetings either finds a church to belong to and is led by those pastors, or he ought to desire that the group itself eventually has pastors appointed over it if it doesn't already and that the group is led by those pastors;

h) Once a new church-plant has matured to the point that pastors have been appointed in it, the leadership of the church should be handed to those pastors - rather than retained by the founding minister, unless the founding minister's priority-calling is to continue as the resident leader of that church. Otherwise, any relationship that continues to exist between the pastors and the founder should be a voluntary one - one that gratefully acknowledges the founder's gift and call but based more on mutual respect rather than an imposed hierarchy.

Monday, 19 September 2011


Not everyone who goes out and wins souls and starts gathering them is an apostle, evangelist, or pastor though. I feel conscientious about the importance of really knowing what our call is before attempting to stand in a particular ministry office. I'm almost certain some have tried to plant a new church, when perhaps they were gifted to hold public revival/refreshing meetings. I'm almost certain others try to plant a new church, when what they perhaps could be doing is establish an outreach ministry. Or become a missionary. Or fulfill whatever ministry they have while remaining connected to their church and its pastors. We can be slightly wrong about our calling, and hence, about our objective. It can make a difference! We can think of ourself as a pastor or apostle all we like, but if it isn't our call and gift - if we weren't actually meant to leave our church - or if we are meant to encourage the people attending our meetings not to think of our meetings as a church but rather to encourage them to find a church - if we get that wrong, it is going to have an affect. (I'm not necessarily saying these things about anyone in this Thread, but about others whom I have met over the years. I don't know the circumstances of everyone in this Thread. I'm speaking generically, rather than specifically about anyone in this Thread.) I would say when a person who starts a new work does happen to be a genuine apostle, that it is still nonetheless God's pattern for the church to eventually be handed over by the apostle and then led by permanent, resident pastors rather than by the apostle. The apostle will, by nature of his apostolic calling, eventually spend most of his time away from the church, fulfilling his apostolic calling. It's the pastors who will stay with the flock more permanently. If the founding 'apostle' instead remains permanently in the church and never places it in the hands of pastors and never travels on, then it may be that he is really a pastor rather than an apostle. If he is really a pastor, then the work will flourish - because that's his true calling, and because God planned that pastors and not apostles would be the permanent leaders of local churches. In such a case, I would call the founding 'apostle' a pastor, rather than an apostle, even though he may also be an apostle in a sense. Pastors stay - apostles move on. If the founder of the work is not called to be a pastor yet remains in charge of the work, my obsevation over the years is that the work begins to dwindle, and often I've seen them eventually close down completely - even though the founder may have been a gifted apostle. It's because God's pattern is for pastors - not an apostle - to eventually govern the church. Apostles usually aren't called to pastor permanently. Another thing I've seen happen is that a founding apostle recognizes he isn't a pastor, so he appoints pastors to work under him - yet he himself remains in charge, almost like a senior-pastor. I still have not seen this work. The apostle acts really no differently to how a 'senior pastor' acts in a regular church. It keeps him away from his apostolic calling. The pastors in effect become puppets to the apostle. They are never really free to be responsible to directly to God for the flock, but responsible instead to their 'apostle'. Eventually the pastors develop precisely the same frustrations they had in their regular church before they left. I haven't seen it work. To me, a true apostle hands the church over to pastors, and moves on - thoroughly moves on - or at least, thoroughly lets go. Thereafter, it is the pastors and not the apostle who have the responsibility for the day-to-day running of the church. At that point the relationship between apostle and pastors becomes a voluntary one. The apostle may visit the church from time to time - but the pastors don't remain as puppets on his strings. He handed it over. It's like a father visiting his adult sons. A father doens't barge in without knocking. His sons have grown now to be the heads of their own houses. But the sons honour their father and voluntarily welcome him in when he visits. If an apostle doesn't reach that type of relationship with the pastors he appoints, then the work is still in its infancy, in my opinion. I've been watching these scenarios play-out for three decades. I could be too coscientious - or, this might be helpful.

More on Pastoring

I would say what makes a person a pastor is a personal call and gift from God. It's something the person has on the inside. No man can give it to him. He knows that he knows he has it. It's not something he just decides to do out of necessity, nor of frustration. It's divine. It's true that a person can already be doing the stuff, and only later be given the title in the minds of others. But I would also say that while it's true that a person can enter a God-given calling before any man recognizes it, if his call is genuine, it will eventually be recognized in two ways: First, by his success; and Second, by other men - including other leaders - who will eventually recognize it and affirm it. Paul the Apostle is an example of this. So, perhaps, is John Wesley. Paul began preaching the Gospel before any man called him. Eventually he went to Jerusalem to become acquainted with the Apostles and Elders - perhaps to double-check that he himself was on the right track. After hearing of the success of Paul's work, the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem unanimously extended to Paul the right hands of fellowship and defined his ministry. Peter even wrote an endorsement of Paul's doctrine, in one of his own Epistles. Paul also had a local body of recognized Prophets and Teachers in his own sending-church at Antioch, men who heard from God about Paul's calling and who laid hands on him at the beginning of a new phase of his ministry. The laying on of hands equates to ordination. The same can be said of John Wesley. But even success and recognition may not be proof enough that someone is called by God to be a pastor. It's something the person himself also needs to know deep inside himself. I heard brother Hagin say once that he pastored (successfully) for 14 years before he got the revelation that he was never called to be a pastor. After God showed him, he assumed he was meant to be an evangelist. So he evangelized for some time, with a certain amount of success. But then, after seeking God more intently, it was revealed to him that he was never called to be an Evangelist either: he was called to be a Prophet and a Teacher. Once Hagin got his ministry in-line with his true calling, he quickly became known all over the world. Hagin says that it's possible for a minister to spend his whole life busy in ministry and yet not do what he was really called to do. Sobering. Hagin also taught that we can hinder our ministry if we don't prioritize our callings properly. His calling was to be Prophet and Teacher. God placed prophecy ahead of teaching. So long as Hagin prioritized his prophetic ministry, he fulfilled God's will. When he prioritized his Teaching ministry, it slowed his ministry down. Hagin also taught that when a person is called to pastor, he needs to prioritize pastoring. That's a reason few prophets will be called to be pastors - because although if a man is a pastor he needs to prioritize pastoring, yet prophecy is ahead of "governments" - so pastor/prophet will be a rare mix of ministries. Usually prophets won't be called to pastor - not longterm, at least. I really do think we ought to be more intentional about discovering our calling, rather than just to leave a church out of frustration, start our own group, and think of ourself as a "pastor" just because we are trying to do the stuff - even if we are doing it with a measure of success. What is the Holy Spirit saying? I think I've seen plenty of examples, over my 32 years as a Christian, of ministers hitting the sweet-spot in their callings, and others who appeared to struggle to identify it. Could this be helpful, or am I being too conscientious?


No matter whether a church meets in a park, in homes, or in a church-building, my feeling is that every church ought to be led by pastors, or aiming to eventually be led by pastors. Witnessing Christians can start a new group; so can an Evangelist, or Apostles - but no matter who starts it, my feeling is that the goal of every group should be to eventually see pastors appointed who can carry-on the responsibility of serving, feeding, teaching and leading the flock. The group will be unlikely to reach full maturity if it continues to be led by regular believers, an evangelist and perhaps even by an apostle. In the New Testament, I see that pastors were eventually appointed in each church, to take-on the responsibility for the flock. Each of us ought to desire to relate to God-called pastors, as closely as circumstances allow. Obviously it takes time in a new group before qualified pastors can become recognized. And imprisoned Christians meeting together in solitary confinement might not have the opportunity to relate naturally with pastors. So, it's not always possible. But if any group is deliberately avoiding the role of pastors - when circumstances don't necessitate it - then I think that group will have difficulty maturing fully. I've seen it happen over and over again. Someone feels the structured church is too restrictive. So he starts his own group. If he's not gifted and called by God into the office of pastor, or if no pastors are ever appointed, the group remains small and some groups eventually fizzle out completely. The group doesn't end-up achieving better results than the church they left. In contrast to that, the house-church movement in China has an ordained leadership. It even has denominational structure. Chinese culture knows little of operating outside of respect for leadership and structure. That's part of the reason why the house-church movement in China has been able to mature further than many house-churches that I've observed in Australia seem to have. I do know of one house-church movement in Queensland that seems to be succeeding, although I don't have enough information yet to say for sure. One thing I know: it has ordained leadership - good, strong, mature leadership - men in recognized ministry roles. Any group will only be as strong as its leadership - whether the group meets in parks, homes or church-buildings. It is God who has ordained that pastors should have a role in leading each local assembly. Any group which ignores that will lack something somewhere along the line. It's true that it is God, and not man, who calls someone to be a pastor. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Not everyone who sets-out to be a pastor was called by God to be one. When a man's call to shepherding is genuine, you can see it by just looking at the sheep, at his flock. The sheep will be healthy and the flock will mostly likely be growing in number too - because healthy mature sheep usually reproduce. It's important that we know our calling. Success will come easier if we function in our calling. If someone is running a home-group or a group that meets in a park or any sort of meeting in any sort of building, it pays for him to consider whether pastoring is really his calling. If he has a genuine calling to the office of pastor, then the growth of the flock both in health and in numbers will prove it - longterm. If pastoring isn't his calling, then he ought to want to encourage the group to relate appropriately to pastors - or, if God wills, he ought to have the goal of eventually seeing pastors appointed in and over the group. Everyone needs pastors. An outreach ministry may not necessarily be a church. A revival meeting is not necessary meant to become a new church. These events may be just meant to fuel the existing churches. It pays to know! I feel it's important for us not to be vague and indistinct about whether or not we are called to pastor or to start a new 'church'. If a person starts a new group, I feel it is helpful for him to know from the outset whether the group is meant to be a 'church' in its own right (in which case he ought to want the group to eventually be led by pastors), or whether the group is meant to just be part of an existing church (a pastoral arm of the church, or an evangelistic outreach of the church) - or whether the meeting is just meant to be a meeting that makes a spiritual contribution (brings revival and refreshing) to existing churches. If we get our own calling right, then what we do can benefit the body of Christ optimally. It's true that all believers can minister and shepherd - it's true that any gathering of two or three believers can be called 'church' in a sense - but it's not true that everyone is called and gifted by God to be a pastor - and it is not true that a group of believers can do just as well if they avoid the importance of having pastors. It's true that pastors can wrongly lord it over the flock. But if that is happening, it is important that a person responds to it appropriately rather than stepping outside of his own calling. It's true that pastors ought to have a heart to equip and release. But sometimes pastors know best when a person is ready. Equipping is part of the role of a minister. But Paul also used the clause "...OVER whom..." when he wrote: "...OVER WHOM the Holy Ghost has made you OVERSEERS..." speaking of pastors. It IS Scriptural to speak of pastors as being OVER the flock. Paul spoke of those who "...RULE well...". He also said, "...God hath placed in the church...GOVERNMENTS..." It's true that God, not man, chooses pastors. But it is not true that it isn't necessary for a man's calling to eventually become recognized by others, including by other leaders. Abuses of leadership can and do happen in both structured churches and house-churches. But that is a problem with the leader's maturity - not a problem with the office of "pastors" itself. If we respond to it within our calling, we will be part of the solution. If we react by stepping outside our calling, we may fail to reach our own full potential. If I'm called to be a nut that holds one of the bicycle's wheels on, I can be a gold-plated nut. Better for a nut to be the nut on the bicycle that it's meant to be, than for the nut to say to itself, "I don't like this bicycle - I'm going to detach myself and ride off down the street all by myself as if I'm a bicycle." I see some ministers who are called to bring revival and refreshing to existing churches in a city - but they are trying to start a new 'church'. Consequently, the impact and scope and focus of their revivalist ministry becomes limited. I see some evangelists who are so successful when they travel in evangelism - but they pastored a church, and it eventually folded. Then they quit traveling as well because they were discouraged. I've seen others who stayed in their church - and they ended-up contributing to their church, and even got to minister to the lost in their city and to other churches worldwide too. I've seen some who held revival meetings without starting a new church. They personally remained connected to their church. They encouraged the attendees of their revival meetings to belong to a church. It worked. Even other pastors liked them! I've seen others who were called to plant their own church - and it worked. They were meant to do it. No-one can call himself to be a pastor or to plant what is meant to become a new church. But he that is called of God. I don't say this to restrict anyone or to deny any good things being done by anyone. I say it only because I think an orange tree will be more appreciated by its owner if it focuses on producing sweeter oranges instead of on trying to produce bananas. My feelings on this could be wrong though. I welcome comment on it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Nation is...

A nation/economy is as sophisticated as its vocabulary; as strong as its unity; as prosperous as its individuals/private companies - and as exalted as its righteousness.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Baby Dedication or Blessing Services

Am I the only person who sometimes senses a certain dryness about some baby-dedication services?

In my opinion, parents can bring their child to be blessed by a minister of the Gospel - but only the parents or guardian can dedicate their child to the Lord.

Blessing or dedication: there is a difference - and attempting to do the wrong one can give a wrong message.

The idea that a child must be brought to a minister of the Gospel to be dedicated to the Lord is, in my opinion, a carry-over from the pre-reformation days, and from Old Covenant days, in two ways:

Firstly, in pre-reformation days, the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers was obscured - the clergy was put on a pedestal above the laity. Only the priests could do certain things. But the Reformation uncovered the truth that all believers have the same access to God and to spiritual things. Parents can dedicate their own children to the Lord. It isn't necessary to bring a child to a Pastor to do so.

Secondly, in pre-reformation churches, babies were christened. Many evangelical churches now understand that was unbiblical. But it seems we have carried-over into our churches this need to perform some ritual for children. And it isn't necessary!

I think, if parents want to, they can dedicate their child to the Lord publicly at church - but it is only the parents or guardian, and not the Pastor, who can do so. A pastor has no more authority to dedicate your child to the Lord than he has to write cheques in your name. But a Pastor can bless your child. Jesus laid his hands on children and blessed them. So can a Pastor.

In fact, so can any believer - it doesn't have to be a Pastor. But if you want it to be a Pastor, or any other minister of the Gospel, that's fine, of course.

You can even have people lay hands on your children and bless them over and over again - it doesn't have to happen only once.

But that's different to ritually bringing your child to a Pastor so he can do the dedicating.

Blessing or dedicating - there is a difference.

It's better to remind ourselves that we're not under the Old Covenant anymore, when only priests had certain rights of access to the things of God. In the New Covenant, all believers do.

Under the Old Covenant, male babies were to be circumcised. But today, it isn't spiritually necessary to be circumcised. It is not necessary to replace circumcision today with a baby dedication ceremony!

A baby dedication or blessing ought to be carried out and spoken of in terms that expresses new covenant realities, not Old Covenant realities, and not pre-reformation mispractices. It will feel more anointed!

Even so, God looks at the heart.

New People's Army (NPA)

Since 1969, the NPA has probably had nearly 40,000 fighting members or more. I wonder: could those 40,000 people have achieved more for the Philippines if instead of forming a guerrilla army, they pooled their educational, technical, financial and entrepreneurial resources and formed a corporation?

By now their free-enterprise corporation could have spread all over the Philippines; it could have created employment and wealth for multiple thousands of Filipinos - and if there is a better system than capitalism, their corporation could have modelled it within their corporation, for the whole nation of the Philippines to envy and imitate: without firing even a single bullet. Sure, the strategy would have required diligence and self-responsibility.

But under the NPA's strategy, multiple millions of Pesos has been spent; an estimated 40,000 people have been killed or disadvantaged in the conflict; and it could be argued - without necessarily apportioning blame - that very little has been produced; and the NPA's membership is now dwindling.

So with the benefit of hindsight, which strategy would have benefited Filipinos more - a corporation, or the armed struggle? Just wondering.

This Post is not a criticism of anyone's or any Party's desire for a better life for Filipinos: we all desire that for all the people of the Philippines, and for all the people of the world. The question is: how best to achieve it.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Stoicism Can Be a Form of Indifference

Stoicism in the face of poverty is often praised - the British stiff upper lip - the Japanese' stoic response in the recent earthquake and tsunami, etc, to the extent that we may even subconsciously feel like it's an ungodly trait to desire to be a bit better off.

There are circumstances where stoicism in the face of hardship can be a godly trait. For example, when believers have been persecuted and their goods confiscated, for their faith. But stoicism in the face of an avoidable state of poverty, rather than being godly, can be a form of ignorance, indifference, false piety, stubbornness, irresponsibility or ungodly tolerance.

Some causes of poverty:

1) Persecution

2) Reaping what one has sown

3) Judgment

4) When an ungodly nation reaps what it has sown, or incurs judgment from God, it can have effects on the circumstances even of godly individuals in the nation through no fault of their own

5) Being robbed by Satan, perhaps through ignorance or indifference

Stoicism in the face of causes #1 and #4 may be godly - but stoicism in causes #2 #3 and #5 could be plain dullness in regard to what is really going on. Enduring poverty with patience, accepting it with 'piety', stoically waiting for something to change one day, complacently accepting it as one's lot in life for now, tolerating it and making-do, would not at all be godly in such cases - it would be more like someone acting deaf, blind, asleep, careless or just plain irresponsible.

If you realize your suffering poverty as a result of any one of those avoidable causes, make a silent adjustment of attitude inside. Relinquish your false sense of piety and unnecessary tolerance. Change your behavior if necessary. Calmly demand prosperity. Nothing less, nothing else should do!

It isn't godly to contribute to the cause of poverty. God takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servants! Renounce the grip of avoidable poverty, and its causes, and demand the flow of prosperity today!

Remain in Your Calling

Do what God gifted & called you to do. Your job description is within you. Often it is not what some other job or ministry description requires you to do.

One reason many are distracted from their calling is money: it's often easier to accept a job or ministry role that has a regular salary attached, rather than have to believe God for extraordinary irregular sources of provision.

God has one method for supporting pastors - another method for supporting evangelists, and still another method for supporting prophets. Trust God to support you along the way of your calling.

Another reason some budding prophets and evangelists go into pastoring instead of staying with their calling, is for ministry opportunity. Perhaps someone has a prophetic or evangelistic vision in his heart and felt he didn't see enough immediate opportunity to fulfill it in his church: so he imagined leading his own church would be the solution.

The result is that he either has to spend a lot of time pastoring instead of being the prophet and evangelist he sought-out to be; or if he prioritizes his rightful calling as a prophet and teacher, his church suffers from pastoral neglect, with the result that he never ends-up with as large a congregation in which to express his gift as the congregation he left. So, going into pastoring ends-up proving counter-productive.

Instead of pastoring himself, better to co-operate with pastors, trusting God to support and provide opportunities to fulfill his prophetic or evangelistic calling, either in his church or to the wider body of Christ.

Stay with your calling. Prove it. Magnify your office. Trust God in it. Remain correctly positioned, related and functioning. Trust God for provision, His way. Experience the fruitfulness and fulfillment of doing the will of God and standing in it.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Stoicism in the Face of Poverty is Not Always Godly

A Facebook Friend of mine posted this on his Wall. I learned that poverty is judgment, and therefore a false-piety and stoicism in poverty is not godly, but rather it is a failure to take ethical responsibility for the cause of one's situation. Stoicism in the face of persecution is godly - but it isn't godly to tolerate poverty. The godly response is to deal with the cause! Demand prosperity!

"(James 5:7-9)-In Rushdoony's commentary regarding James' epistle, he writes: "Instability marks a time of judgment, and therefore in both vv. 7 and 8 patience is urged. James knows that living in an age of crisis is painfully difficult. His letter never deludes us into thinking that it is an easy thing to go through times of upheaval and judgment. We are never told that a pseudo-piety can enable to survive like Stoics in a time of destruction. Jeremiah's Lamentations, for one, militates against the idea that Stoicism is Godly.
James urges patience because the conclusion of God's judgments is good, however painful. In a sinful world, God's judgments are necessary, and they are, in their conclusions, a blessing. Patience means that our perspective is not existential but providential. We know by God's grace His purposes for His Kingdom, for history, and for us. Patience can be a mark of grace, a trust in God's purposes, and a knowledge that "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

Patience means recognizing that there can be no peace without judgment. Peace without justice would be no more than hell, an unchanging and everlasting state of evil. History is a series of judgments to prepare the way for the new creation. However difficult and painful, these judgments are to be welcomed." ~ Rousas John Rushdoony, Hebrews, James and Jude: Judgment, p. 196-197

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Explanatory Notes I Corinthians 14

1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

If the sole purpose for which the gift of tongues was given was so that unbelieving foreigners could hear their own language and become convinced, then it could never have happened that "no man understandeth him".

A tongue was not said to be invalidated just because no man understood it. Rather, even if no man understood it, he who spoke in an unknown tongue was regarded as nonetheless genuinely speaking to God.

3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

There was still a purpose and a benefit even when a tongue was unknown - but the benefit was personal, not public.

5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

Speaking in tongues was something that any believer could potentially do, or else Paul wouldn't have desired it for all of them.

6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?

8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.

11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Paul's issue was not about the genuineness or otherwise of their gifts, nor with their zeal for them - his issue was only that they express the gifts with better motives and in the most profitable manner.

13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

The speaker himself did not understand the tongue, or else he would not have needed to pray that he may interpret.

Often no-one in the immediate audience understood it either, or else the speaker would not have needed to pray that he might interpret.

There was nothing invalid with the tongues being spoken even when no-one in the immediate audience understood it - but there was a greater corporate benefit to be had by interpreting the tongues.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

Praying in tongues was a valid way to pray with one's spirit.

Tongues were able to be used for private prayer, not only for a public sign.

Praying in an unknown tongue exercised one's spirit, but not one's mind. (Man is spirit, soul and body - Thessalonians).

15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

Paul said, "I will" - that was an act of volition - he could speak in tongues, or alternatively, with his understanding - at will.

The choice was the speaker's whether or not he exercised his spirit exclusively or his understanding also in prayer.

Speaking in tongues was able to be employed not only as a sign - but also for all the purposes for which singing could be employed.

Although praying with his spirit, that is, in tongues, was a valid way to pray or sing, Paul said that he would choose rather to pray or sing with his understanding when in public.

16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?

To "bless" was another purpose for which speaking in tongues could be employed. The uses of speaking in tongues were not limited to its purpose as a sign.

17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

Speaking, praying, singing, blessing and giving thanks were each activities that could be done validly in tongues even when the tongue was unknown.

"...verily thou givest thanks well..." meant that performing such activities in an unknwon tongue was regarded as good, acceptable and perfect as a personal activity, despite being unbeneficial to the public if performed in public.

18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:

Not only in public, but also privately. There was a private use for speaking, praying, singing, blessing and giving thanks in tongues - the purpose of tongues was not limited to being a public sign only.

19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

There was a public as well as a private use for tongues.

20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

Paul doesn't specify Jewish unbelievers - but unbelievers generally.

He does not mean that a tongue must always be understood by the immediate audience, in order to function as a sign.

How could tongues ever be a sign to unbelievers if unbelievers were shielded from hearing tongues? It was okay to let unbelievers hear tongues.

23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

"...the whole church...come together into one place..." That does not describe merely a mid-week meeting, or a once-in-a-year camp-meeting - it described the main, regular gathering of the church. There was a place for the regular manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit during the principal gathering of the local church!

"...will they not say that ye are mad?" Evidently the tongues were often unknown, or else if all spake with tongues and unbelievers came in and always heard their own languages as on the day of Pentecost, they wouldn't say they were mad, but instead, they would all hear their own language and be amazed. So it was often not the case that tongues were understood.

Obviously it was not often the case even in the early church that unbelievers heard tongue-speakers in their own languages, like what happened on the Day of Pentecost. It was more common that tongues were unknown and that interpretation was required. Otherwise why would the gift of "the interpretation of tongues" have been needed in the Church?

It would have been mad for everyone in a gathering to think any benefit could have been derived through addressing the whole gathering in unknown tongues. If a group carried-on doing that, of course visitors could rightly have questioned their mental health. Nevertheless Paul never denied the validity of the tongues per se - only the manner in which the gift was being expressed.

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

There was nothing wrong with the tongues - only that the objective should be corporate edification, not personal edification - unless it was spoken privately.

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.

It seems that tongues were more often than not unknown - because here Paul seems to assume that an interpreter might often be required. If the purpose of tongues was always so that foreign unbelieving visitors could hear their own language, then there would never have been a need for the supernatural gift of "the interpretation of tongues" (I Cor.12: ).

If addressing a congregation in tongues, during a regular church service, two or three speakers is enough. But in times of a general outpouring of the Spirit, such as on the day of Pentecost, at Samaria, in Cornelius' household, and at Ephesus, everyone was filled at once and spoke with tongues - there were more than two or three speakers, but no-one was addressing the congregation per se. That is not indecent nor disorderly.

28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

The tongue was no less valid despite no-one understanding it - or else Paul would not have encouraged the speaker of such tongues to continue speaking to himself and to God.

Speaking to yourself and to God in tongues was a valid use of speaking in tongues. The usefulness of tongues was not limited to being a public sign.

If no interpreter was present, and the speaker himself did not interpret, then no-one would have understood the tongue - and yet, the tongue was still considered valid.

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

Notice that while a prophecy could be judged, a tongue could be interpreted - demonstrating that the tongue was indeed unknown by anyone in the immediate audience.

30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.

31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.

32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

If the Corinthians' tongues had been Pagan and false, Paul would not have told them not to forbid anyone to speak with tongues. Here he endorses the validity of their tongues.

40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

But it was not considered indecent nor disorderly when 120 were filled with the Spirit and spoke with tongues on the day of Pentecost; when the entire city of Samaria received the Holy Ghost at once; when many in Corenelius' household were filled with the Spirit and spoke with tongues, even interrupting Peter's sermon to do so; nor when 12 disciples were filled with the Spirit and spoke with tongues and prophesied at Ephesus. Those scenarios were not inconsistent with Paul's advice here in I Cor.14. Both scenarios are different, and both scenarios are valid, decent and orderly.