The Holy Spirit Gift of Tongues…

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I have come to the end of my comments on the gifts of the Spirit. 

Since November 5, I have written on the gifts that God gives us, gifts that are given through the Holy Spirit.  Most of the gifts are skills and abilities that God has chosen to give us; skills and abilities that we can choose to use of not.  But each gift He gives is His way of furthering His kingdom through us.

Some gifts are “sign” gifts, like healing, miracles and prophecy.  The idea is that if you can heal a person, that is a “sign” that you have a special gift from God.

The last gift I will comment on is a sign gift; it is the sign gift of tongues.

This is a controversial gift; some Christians have strong doubts that people speaking glossolalia or speaking in tongues is real.   I don’t know if it is meaningful, but Pastor Graham devotes more pages to this sign gift than any other gift in his book The Holy Spirit

From my personal experiences, I have thought about this phenomenon for many years.   When I gave my life to Christ, I had a pastor from a “non-denominational”* church reach out to me and counsel me.   He never tried to get me to come to his church but I visited there quite a few times.  Glossolalia was often a part of the worship service as the pastor [or visiting pastors] would drop into tongues as part of the sermon.

On one instance at that church, I was surrounded by several members as they were praying for me as a group.  I listened to their words and some of their prayers were in a language I did not know [later finding out that several members were praying to the Lord in tongues].

I had a very good friend who belonged to an African-American congregation and her church has always had regular episodes of people speaking in tongues.  Once I asked her if she ever had that experience and I found her answer enlightening:  “I always was so aware of my communication that I never felt the gift.  I was always too worried about not really feeling the Spirit.  I always wondered if it would be real for me.”

I used to watch the television evangelist Joyce Meyer every morning.   When I was a beginning Christian, her messages were appealing.  She explained the basics of the Christian experience in language that was straight-forward, very easy to understand.   I became a fan of her ministry.  In the late nineteen-eighties, her ministry came to Nashville, Tennessee and my wife and I attended her evangelistic rally.  I   remember her talking about tongues as part of her presentation and I could tell that those in attendance were very familiar with this phenomenon.   I will never forget one part of her presentation when she called on the audience to respond in tongues and many of them did.   We were sitting on the upper deck of a large arena and as people began to speak, their sound was musical, like nothing I had ever heard before.

The church I attend is a Methodist Church, St. John United Methodist Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.  Since becoming a member about twenty-three years ago I have never heard anyone speak in tongues.   That is not to say that admission of this religious practice is not acknowledged in the church.    It is.  The logo of the United Methodist Church was adopted shortly after the merger of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church; it relates The United Methodist church to God through Christ (cross) and the Holy Spirit (flame).**

The flame in the logo is a reminder of Pentecost when witnesses were unified by the power of the Holy Spirit and saw “tongues, as of fire” [Acts 2:3] but the two tongues of a single flame may represent the union of two denominations into the United Methodist Church.

The Methodist Church has a history of glossolalia in its worship service.  In the mid-eighteenth century a “Great Awakening” occurred throughout Britain and the Thirteen Colonies.  This series of revivals in protestant churches often resulted in many manifestations of the Holy Spirit [including tongues].  The Second Great Awakening occurred in America in the 19th century.  Revival services were characterized as enthusiastic and emotional.  This was in opposition to the rationalism of the period known as the “Enlightenment” which gripped learned society.  Many denominations (including the Methodist Church) enrolled millions of members at this time.  It is a well-known fact that the Holy Spirit fell on many worshippers at this time and they displayed speaking in tongues.

Before we get to the comments on the sign gift of tongues by Pastor Graham, I wanted to acknowledge that I have had experience and knowledge of speaking in tongues for many years. 

As I wrote in the beginning of this post, many Christians have serious doubts about the authenticity of this.  I am not one of those.  I think some people have this gift, even though I don’t think I have ever manifested it in my life.  Maybe I am like my African-American friend; I am too aware of my communication for it to come upon me.   My mind gets in the way.

I do believe that God would not give man or woman something that would cause people to be excluded due to not having a gift.  In my personal belief, some people have this gift while others do not.  It is wonderful for those who have it and I take it on faith that this special gift from God is real.

For the rest of us, we don’t have it, but we should not be concerned.

God loves us all the same.

*Pentecostal or charismatic church…this denomination does not really identify their affiliation with any denomination.


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The Holy Spirit Gift of Governments

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And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues [1 Corinthians 12: 28].

This Scripture mentions several of the Holy Spirit gifts that we have been discussing. Note that first of all, we have to have apostles [leaders]. What this Scripture is really highlighting is that we have to have leaders in church. Romans 12:8 says “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” This Scripture focuses on the one who is “to lead”; the Greek word for “to lead” in this Scripture translates “rule” or “govern”.

First Thessalonians 5:12 says in relation to ministers “And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labor among you and over you in the Lord. Note the words “over you”, a reference to the hierarchy of leadership. Pastors lead the church but God is over the pastor; never forget who is your true leader.

What we are talking about is what Graham* calls the spiritual gift of “governments” or the spiritual gift of leadership. Many church members are perfectly happy to not have this gift; they would rather be followers than leaders, but there is a simple question that must be asked of all churches. How can the church accomplish tasks, develop its congregation, serve the needs of its fellowship or establish a community witness? How can this be done without people who have the gift of leadership?

The simple answer… it can’t.

Pastor Billy Graham writes that “the Scriptures teach that churches must have government; they require leadership, whether professional or nonprofessional” [200]. Jesus spent His ministry time with twelve men, developing them into leaders who would carry on His work after He went to heaven. The Apostles appointed leaders over the churches they founded. Paul gives qualifications for Bishops in Timothy 3: 1-7, saying they are overseers, superintendents, or governors.

Some churches or assemblies may try to conduct the work of the Lord without appointed leaders but Graham “believe[s] this is virtually impossible” [201]. Many churches have appointed, ordained leaders who carry out the work of the church as part of their jobs, but every church also has members who rise to leadership roles even though they don’t have official titles.Whether a person is an appointed leader or just a naturally gifted leader, there are several qualities which distinguish the spiritual gift of leadership. First and foremost is the idea that they have the ability to lead because God has given them the gift. They do not see themselves as absolute rulers; they are subject to the One who is above us all. If God gives this Holy Spirit gift to us, acknowledging that prevents us from succumbing to pride or a sense of entitlement.

The leader in the church has the ability to sway others to think rightly, biblically and in a Godly manner in all matters. They feel the power of God in their lives, they exhibit that power as they lead their lives and they have the ability to use words and actions to convince others to consider the power of The lord. These words may come from the pulpit, but convincing also comes in the form of activities associated with various ministries in the church. The leader does not just talk about doing things; the leader follows through and takes action along with followers. Indeed “actions may speak louder than words.”

Graham says the qualifications of a leader are listed several times in the New Testament. A leader “must not be dictatorial, egotistical, or dogmatic; he is anything but that. Rather he is humble, gracious, kind, and filled with love; yet at times he must be very firm. For this reason, the gift of knowledge combined with wisdom is necessary” [201]. The leadership ideals in the New Testament are in opposition to pomp and pageantry. One can study the life of Jesus; instead of pomp and pageantry, He emphasized grace, humility and service.

The spiritual gift of leadership is given by God to men and women who will help the church to grow beyond the current generation. God did not give this gift for man to exalt himself; he gave it for God to be exalted.

When one thinks about the life of Christ, that life is the perfect example of the ideal Christian leader. Jesus came to serve and give His life for the ransom of us all. He humbled Himself as a servant, washing His Disciples feet. After doing that He said “a servant is not greater than his master.” He was not greater than His Father God. He said that every true leader is a helper, a servant or even a bond slave.

His most important message to us all was through love we are to serve one another. This is not a suggestion. It is a command.

Graham says it “applies with special force… to leaders.”

People who have the Holy Spirit gift of leadership.

*Billy Graham from his book The Holy Spirit

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God is in the “Attitude”

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Sometimes a story is the best way to make a point.*

A couple of years ago I had a good friend who was in a pinch. He was a regular volunteer at a mission center in my community. This mission center had a weekly food distribution day. The normal people he depended on to distribute food were going to be gone and he was afraid that he would not have enough people to sort the food, box it up and hand it out, so he asked me to help. I had a free Thursday so I said yes.

This was my first time, so I did not know what to expect. I soon caught on to the fact that this ministry was all about providing basic provisions to the poor and homeless. At 9:00 a.m. a very long line of recipients started showing up for their food boxes. Before they got there I had some time to talk with other volunteers. Many homeless people were already at the mission because they had nowhere else to be. The center served them all around the clock so they were hanging around, talking and many of them smoking cigarettes.

As I began to have several conversations, I noticed one woman who did not seem to be very happy to be there. I talked to her a bit and in the bits and pieces of our conversation she inserted phrases like “handouts to the poor,” “I wish I could get some government cheese like these people” and “can’t they find something to do?” When she worked with the distribution, her body language seemed to fit her commentary. She struggled to do the work and she never had a smile on her face. She seemed to treat the food like it was not valuable and when she interacted with the recipients she worked quickly never exchanging a pleasantry with anyone. It seemed that when she handed them the food, she did it grudgingly. It was clear to me that she was very disturbed to be around this “class” of people.

In contrast, I also conversed with a man who knew so many of the people at the mission by first name. He was a smoker and many of the homeless came over and bummed cigarettes off of him and he took the time to smoke with them and talk with them in a friendly manner. He was not dressed in his best clothing. I knew him and I knew he had an adequate income, but his good clothing was left at home. When he worked with the food, he handled it with respect; I overheard him say to someone else “They sure will appreciate this small canned ham.” When he distributed food he often carried it to their cars if they were elderly. I could hear him address older people as “sir” and “ma’am”. His body language communicated respect; he was not judging these people, he was there to help them and they thanked him. I heard some of those people say “thank you.” The words sounded heartfelt.

After my day was over, I wondered about the woman, thinking the mission center would probably prefer that she would stay home in the future.

The man was a different story. He understood how to help people and he was a good role model for all of us. He belonged at the mission center.

This example provided by these two contrasting people can just be an exercise in stereotypes. Who really knows why people act the way they do, why some people struggle to help others and some people have an ease about helping. It is too easy to come to conclusions based on a few smatterings of conversation and vague observations of a person’s body language, but this little story leads into a discussion of the Holy Spirit gift of “helps”. Some people have the Holy Spirit gift of “helps” while others don’t seem to have that gift at all.

Pastor Graham** refers to this gift that is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12: 28. Helps comes from the Greek word meaning supporting or assisting. Some might think that helping in a ministry of a church or mission center or some other faith-based institution might not be a big deal but it is based on the idea that work needs to be spread around; one person or a small number of people cannot do it all. People with specific skills can do The Lord’s work.

What makes the Holy Spirit gift of helps special is the “attitude” of those who help. In the process of helping others, there can be a powerful witness for the Kingdom of God and it is in the graceful behavior of the helper. Graham writes that when he began his evangelistic ministry, he wanted to be involved in all phases of the ministry and he soon found that he was exhausted. One of his closest friends came to him one night and said “Why can’t we go at this as a team?” Suddenly Graham saw the wisdom of this offer and began to delegate phases of his ministry to very qualified people who could help him with his mission. This type of Holy Spirit “help” is found in churches all over, as lay people step in and do the work of the church. Some prepare meals for the sick, make home visits to first-time visitors, some mow the church yard and others write letters of encouragement to the bereaved. Others serve as leaders of ministries, church council members, or they can chair important committees. God can and does use these people to do His work. Pastors just cannot do it all. They depend on helpers; they depend on people with the Holy Spirit gift of helps who take their skills and use them as they are needed.
One need not think that the only ministry that “counts” is the ministry of the pastor or the ministry of the evangelist. God is heavily involved in the lives of all His sheep and He has given each person special talents. Just because you don’t have a highly visible leadership role does not mean that you cannot help. If you have a cheerful attitude and you give of yourself to others, you can be a powerful witness for God; maybe the strongest witness some people will ever see.

Yes, sometimes little things like treating others with respect, carrying a box of food to someone’s car and saying “sir” and “ma’am” can do the trick.

That may be what someone needs, a little help and some moments with a Godly helper.

*characters in this story are not meant to represent actual persons…
** from his book The Holy Spirit

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Discernment: Special Gift of the Spirit

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When someone is witnessing, teaching or preaching on God’s behalf, are they always telling the truth? We hope so but is there a possibility that they could be lying?  Is there a possibility that they are not revealing the whole truth?

As believers, how do we determine truth or lies? How do we decide whether a person is truly representative of God?  Are they representing “dark” forces not related to God at all? Billy Graham* writes that the world has “hundreds of religious leaders who are not servants of God, but they serve the Anti-christ. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing; they are tares instead of wheat.” I don’t know about you but that sounds a bit ominous.

As Christians, we are commanded to “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” [Romans 12:9]. But, unless we have true discernment, how can we determine what is “evil” and what is “good”? In order to maintain the purity of the gospel, the church must distinguish truth from heresy. Wisdom also demands that we properly discriminate between what is “best” and what is merely “good.”

What do we have to do in order to know what to do in situations like this?

Use discernment.

The problem is that not everybody has this Holy Spirit gift.

The word “discern” is translated from the Greek word anakrino in the New Testament. It means “to distinguish, to separate out by diligent search, to examine”.** Many think discernment is like wisdom, and one could make an argument that it is related, but discernment is much more than just wisdom. Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is said to discern the thoughts and intentions of one’s heart. It has the ability to “discriminate.” This goes beyond head knowledge; it is spiritual knowledge.

The previous reference gives you a tip about discernment. People who have discernment have a deep familiarity with God’s word. A discerning person acknowledges the power of God’s word and studies The Word. Proverbs 8: 8-9 states “All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning, all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge.” Naturally, people who want to walk in righteousness have a hunger for the Bible and they can apply their Bible knowledge to situations that call for discernment. They may be able to separate the wheat from the tares.

Graham also says believers need to respect the opinions of those who have this gift. The Apostle John said “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” [1 John 4:1].

This again brings up something that was mentioned in the fourth sentence of this post, that term “dark forces.” Many Christians don’t like that reference. They don’t want to acknowledge that there are people who are actively working against God in our world today. Graham writes “Spiritism, the occult, the worship of Satan and activities of demons have increased rapidly throughout the western world.” In a Chapman University poll conducted in 2017, fifty-five percent of Americans believe that paranormal spirituality is real. Membership numbers for the church of Satan vary greatly due to the fact that many people practice privately and participate mostly online, but these people do exist. It is much easier to say that Satanists are not real rather than admit that they may pose a threat, but probably the “false teacher” does more damage than people who dabble in the paranormal or people who align themselves with Satan. The false teacher is one who appears to be a knowledgeable believer but they are not. They are the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that Graham refers to above. They direct believers down the wrong path.

The Christian with discernment believes what Jesus said about fruit: “a tree is recognized by its fruit” [Matthew 12: 33]. First of all, what does the Jesus-based teacher say about Jesus? Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, but a false teacher may not acknowledge that clearly. Anyone who denies that Jesus is equal with God, who downplays Jesus’ sacrificial death, or who rejects Jesus’ humanity is suspect. Examine this; does your teacher preach the Gospel? The gospel is defined as the good news concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; any teaching other than that should be condemned. Does your teacher exhibit character qualities that glorify the Lord? In other words, a false teacher “can be known by his pride (Cain’s rejection of God’s plan), greed (Balaam’s prophesying for money), and rebellion (Korah’s promotion of himself over Moses). Jesus said to beware of such people; that we would know them by their fruit.”***

Certainly God gives some individuals extraordinary abilities to discern the truth. Scripture tells us everywhere that anything religious should be evaluated very carefully; that even the churches where we go to worship must be examined to see if they are sound in truth.

It seems to me that discernment is a useful spiritual gift and maybe we should all desire it. After discussing it, maybe we should use the prayer that is expressed in Psalms 119: 125 as our guide: “I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.”

The more that we dedicate ourselves to understanding God’s statutes in His word, the more we can separate the wheat from the tares, the wolves from the sheep.

Or maybe we can consult the Jesus believer who has the gift of discernment; they can certainly tell the difference between what is God and what is not…

*from his book The Holy Spirit
**from the “Got Questions” website “Discernment”
***from the “Got Questions” website “How Do I Recognize a False Teacher?”

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The Holy Spirit “Sign” of Miracles

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What is a miracle?

Does God still perform miracles today?

What would be the value of performing miracles for the unbeliever or even the believer?

All of these questions center on something that people debate, believers and unbelievers: the existence of miracles in our modern world.

First of all, performing a miracle is a “sign” of the power of the Holy Spirit and Pastor Graham* calls the ability to perform miracles a “sign” gift of the Spirit. To explain simply, if one can do this, it is a sign of the manifestation of the power of God. “A miracle is an event beyond the power of any known physical law to produce; it is a spiritual occurrence produced by the power of God, a marvel, a wonder [Graham, 215].

Of course, examples of miracles abound in the Bible. One of the most well-known is the miracle of the animal sacrifice on Mount Carmel involving Elijah. This miracle was performed by God at the behest of the prophet Elijah. At the time of the miracle, the people of Israel were conflicted by their desire to either worship God or Baal. You may recall in this incident that Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to set up an alter on which they would place an animal sacrifice. Then Elijah told the people of Israel to watch for a confirming sign that God was the true God. Of course he knew that Baal was not the true god. What is so interesting about this sign miracle is that Elijah taunted the priests of Baal, saying that nothing would happen to the sacrifice if their god was asked to respond. The priests cried out to Baal for action, but nothing happened, a “sign” that Baal did not exist? Then Elijah poured barrels of water on the sacrifice and asked for a response from God [talk about confidence].  God sent fire that consumed the sacrifice in spite of the water, a sign that God was all-powerful: indeed, God exists.

New Testament miracles were common in the life of Jesus and in the life of his apostles. They healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, raised the dead and cast out demons. This was to “prove” they were connected to the true God.  God was the source of their power.  In that day, as today, the idea was if God could perform a miracle, then unbelievers would surely become believers.

However, let’s examine what really happened in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.   In the Old Testament, God performed amazing and powerful miracles for the Israelites but did that cause them to obey Him? I am afraid not. After the miracles, these people disobeyed and rebelled against God. The parting of the Red Sea was not enough; conquering the inhabitants of the Promised Land was not enough. It is interesting but one of the best scriptures to explain this lack of response to miracles is found in the New Testament, in Luke 16: 31. To provide context, a man in hell asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham informed the man, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

The question about miracles today is this.  Would there be value in the performing of miracles in today’s world?   Maybe immediately, but as in the days of the Old Testament and the First Century world of the New Testament, for most people the effect would not be long-lasting. Many people of shallow faith would be amazed, but the moment would quickly pass from their consciousness. When the “next big thing” comes along, all attention would be turned toward that. Jesus knew a faith based on miracles is not a mature faith. Acts 2:22 declares “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.” But all the miracles were not enough to win over the Jewish community. Jesus lost his life at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders and Roman oppressors of his time.

God may be performing miracles today but the result of those miracles would probably be like the past. Some may be impressed but many would not, quickly returning to their old ways.

Graham wonders if the spectacular miracles of the past are over. Maybe today our faith is just too small. Maybe those miracles of old were useful in the Old Testament to impress the Israelites [even for a short span]; maybe those miracles in the New Testament were useful to impress a first century audience, to help establish the Christian faith, but would they be useful today?

Graham wonders aloud about the end times.  Maybe that is the time when “signs” will emerge that convince a skeptical world of the power of God.  Maybe that is when we will see more miracles.

Maybe miracles are not necessary because we have the Scriptures, the cornerstone of our faith, the record of the greatest miracle [God coming to earth in the form of Jesus Christ].

Then there is the miracle of a transformed life. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we now have a Gospel that provides a pathway to forgiveness and a cleansed life. Maybe the true miracle is the transformed life of the new believer.   Every time a sinner is “born again”, the miracle of regeneration begins.

Maybe that is the miracle that really counts…

The very significant miracle of personal resurrection…

*from his book  The Holy Spirit…

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“I Believe God”…The Spiritual Gift of Faith

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The phone call came when he was out of town, Atlanta in fact. He was there to visit his son who was in college. Out of the blue, the phone rang and it was an aunt. She said “come to see me as soon as you can; I need your help and you are the only one who can help me!” That message had an ominous tone to it, but he said “Ok, I am in Atlanta but when I get home, I will give you a call.”

Then the imagination was engaged. Telling his wife, they began to speculate about why he was called and what was that call about? Having very little to work on, they really could not begin to come up with plausible scenarios. It was a stimulus for interesting conversation on the way back home from Atlanta.

After a couple of days at home, the phone call to the aunt was made and a time was set to visit. Again, no details were shared and as the time drew near, he experienced some nervousness.

Entering her apartment on the day of the appointment, it was immediately apparent that she was extremely agitated. After a few minutes, it became clear that she was mad at all the members of her family who she felt had taken advantage of her. This is not the forum to discuss that but she was “chapped,” meaning very angry. She provided specific evidence of her grievances as the visit continued; to put it mildly, she was at her wits end. She had reached the point in life where she wanted to make her “final arrangements” and the only one she trusted was about 87 years old and in bad health.  So, I was the only candidate to fulfill her requests.

Some would say, well tell her yes and be done with it.  But with a child in college, a working spouse, a full-time professorship at a local college, and a house and yard to help manage, I had a full life. I had lots to do and I wondered if I could I add this to my load. I told myself, she was in good health so quit worrying. I said yes to her request. I just felt that I needed to help her even though I was not sure what I had just signed up for.

The main thing she asked: could I be her Power of Attorney in the event of poor health and Executor of her estate in the event of her death. In the event of poor health, I was to be the contact person to decide end-of-life issues. At the time of this request, she was in charge of her business, but in hindsight, I think she knew that she would soon be facing serious life changes.

The changes came quickly. A short while later I got another phone call about a routine surgery for her shoulder and she expressed her fear that things would go wrong. They did, but not in the way she suspected. After a thorough pre-surgical exam the doctor told her that her heart was too weak for surgery. Then the phone call about the cancer. My aunt had smoked for years and now the doctors found esophageal cancer in her body and it was aggressive.

Within months, she transitioned from an assisted living facility to a nursing home and she lost all interest in paying her bills. Actually it seemed she was a bit obsessed with her death [probably depression]. It was now my job to work with her on her finances. It was my job to downsize her belongings and place them in a storage facility. As she spiraled toward death, it became apparent that I needed to contact her estranged family members so they could have the option of a visit. I did that even though the calls were difficult.

Things quickly got more complex…late night calls from doctors asking permission for treatment, specific requests from her about particular possession that should be appraised and distributed, frequent visits for business consultations. I got to the point when I just said “God I don’t know what to do. This woman is dying on me and I have never had an experience like this before. Please help me.”

I felt down deep in my heart that I could get through this and I did.  God answered my prayers by providing help from so many people.  I could not see a way forward at times but God provided a way forward. I had already said yes to my aunt; now God said yes to me.

Billy Graham calls this the spiritual gift of faith. “Many things come into our lives concerning which there are no specific promises from the Word…sometimes the Holy Spirit give us the gift of faith to believe for things about which the Bible is silent” [193-94] In my case, I worked though the situation on faith, Holy Spirit faith that God provided.

Credit needs to be given where it is due. Her doctors were very caring; her church members stepped forward to assist in ways that were necessary. One very good friend of hers [I will call him JW] was my initial line of defense. When she had to go to the emergency room, he was there for her quickly because I was living seventy-two miles away. I owed him so much; he was my angel as well as hers.

Too often when we think of faith, we really think of what Graham calls the grace of faith, meaning we can believe what God is going to do because He said He is going to do it in His Word. All Christians can have this type of faith. In fact, Graham states “if we do not have faith in what the Bible promises, we sin” [193].

Holy Spirit faith is when we can’t see any way forward and we give it over to God and we indeed go forward despite the circumstances. That is what happened with my aunt. I took care of her needs all the way to the end, with help from others and with help from God. It took a long time because she placed so many demands on me; she wanted particular things done in particular ways. At times I did not think I would ever get to the end of it all, but I did and I was happy that I carried out her wishes the best that I could. I really think she would have been pleased.

From my perspective, the whole episode resulted in a closer relationship with God. I was given faith by the Holy Spirit to do what God had laid on my heart. At times the consequences were dire, but I made it all the way to the end. Her last arrangements were made as per her request and when the last check from her estate was mailed to the last recipient and the court declared her estate settled, I knew I did not do all the work on my own power.

I said yes to my aunt.

God said yes to my prayers.

Together, we took care of her, all the way to the end.

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The Spiritual Gift of Wisdom…

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The gift of wisdom…

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love Him—these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.”

One of those “things” [spiritual gifts] is the gift of wisdom…

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.*

It sounds like wisdom is a mystery and something that the rulers of the age did not have, but stated simply, wisdom is the believer’s ability to sort through opinions, facts and thoughts in order to determine what solution would be best for the individual believer or community of believers. The “sorting” and the resulting solution is from our God, our Father.

Pastor Billy Graham says there are three kinds of wisdom, one comes to us naturally, another comes to us from learning, but the highest kind of wisdom comes directly from God and is associated with the particular work of the Holy Spirit.

Before I go any further, I want to be honest with you about my attitude toward knowledge, learning and wisdom. I have always held intelligent people in high regard, but as I have gotten older, I wonder if I have made mistakes about my respect for intelligence. Graham cites a friend who has a head “crammed full of biblical knowledge” yet his utter disregard for the practical application of his knowledge has almost lead to the destruction of his ministry.

I have a good friend who thought he was being led into ministry and he enrolled in seminary. After several semesters of coursework, he came to the conclusion that the Spirit of God was not in the place where he was studying. The further he went in his studies, the more he felt distant from God. Seeking knowledge was not giving him what he wanted.

In my past experience, I have emphasized knowledge of The Bible and God to the point that I thought what I knew set me apart from others. The more I knew, the more I could draw attention to myself and therefore diminish others who knew less [wow, that sounds horrible doesn’t it?].

Let’s stop and examine all three of these situations. In the first case, why have a head “crammed” with Bible knowledge if you cannot apply the information in a positive, helpful way? Why seek Bible knowledge if you feel that the Spirit of God is not in the knowledge, in fact the quest for information leads you away from God? Why have a desire for knowledge about God if you are misusing it for your own ego needs?

Graham says that the spiritual gift of wisdom and knowledge need to work together. Without a doubt, the Apostle Paul had situations in his life when he had to defend his faith before mobs, governors, princes and kings. Certainly Paul spent hours of disciplined study, but was the study done under his own power or did God bathe the study with His Holy Spirit? Too often we think we learn by our own willpower but I am not sure. Now, I often pray before I read my Bible. When I open an explanatory book about grace, prayer or any other spiritual topics, I may have a desire to enrich my knowledge base but my motivation now is to find a way to draw closer to God. Maybe even the process of learning can be closely connected to reverence for God.

Graham says the real spiritual gift of wisdom occurs when we take what we know and apply it to actual situations. “Wisdom is the gift from the Spirit which shows us how to use knowledge.” It is through our communion with God where we gain a higher knowledge and a higher wisdom than the world has. Indeed it is a gift when we have both knowledge and the ability to apply it in practical situations. Graham says “every fellowship of believers needs at least one person with the gift of wisdom to aid in practical decisions.”

I have collected prayers over the years and one prayer that has always helped me is about knowledge, learning and wisdom. “God, I have knowledge but I need you to show me how to use it wisely. Show me how to serve you with my education, my knowledge and my skill. Make me aware that my knowledge comes from learning, but wisdom comes from You.”

Knowledge may come from my learning but the mystery of wisdom that has been hidden, the mystery of wisdom that God has destined for His glory…

That mystery, that spiritual gift of how to use knowledge…

That comes from You
*quotations from 1 Corinthians 2: 6-13

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