Someone has said that "speaking in tongues" is a stumbling block to many Christians, just as the cross is a stumbling block to unbelievers.
"To people who are being lost the message about Jesus being nailed to a cross sounds silly, but it is God's power to us who are being saved... But we always preach Christ, the one who was nailed to the cross! This is embarrassing to Jews and nonsense to people who are not Jews." (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23) I guess that is the way "speaking in tongues" strikes those who think spiritual gifts ceased after the first century.
After God got my attention almost three years earlier, I told Him that He could have all of me, and that I wanted all that He had for me. I told Him that I didn't understand it, and it didn't make sense to me, but I was even willing to speak in tongues if that's what He wanted me to do. On December 3, 1993, He gave me that experience. Now I do understand it, and it does make sense.
Remember what James said about the tongue?
"Which one of you is able to control his whole body? We put bits into the mouths of horses, so that we can make them obey us. When we control their mouths, we can control their whole body. It is the same with ships. Although the ship is very large and is moved by strong winds, yet only a tiny rudder guides the ship's course, and the captain's wish controls the rudder. It is the same with our tongue." (James 3:2-5) The one who controls the tongue, controls the whole body.
Supernatural Seemed So Natural
I was alone in my art studio at home that day. Sylvia was at work in her office at the insurance agency downtown. I got down on my knees and told God that I wanted Him to take complete control of my life. I held nothing back. By then I understood that my spirit could pray directly to God with the help of the Holy Spirit within me if I would allow it. I relaxed my tongue and gave control over to God. A most wonderful experience which is beyond my ability to describe happened next.
For over an hour words flowed from my mouth that I did not understand. At times it sounded Italian. At other times it sounded like German, then Mexican, and native American Indian. I'm not saying it was those languages, but it had that kind of sound to me. However, at times it didn't sound like any of those languages, but one I had never heard before.
The surprising thing about it was that it seemed so natural. There seemed nothing supernatural about it, except that I felt like a spectator. My mind wasn't controlling it. It was like I was watching and listening to someone else use my mouth -- and even my body.
I looked down at times to see my hands gesturing, as if to help express what I was saying. Some of it was very emotional. At one point I began crying with what seemed to be my whole being while continuing to "talk." It reminded me of times when one of our children came to us when they were small, trying to tell us how they got hurt or how someone had wronged them, but they were crying so hard it was difficult to understand what they were saying. I must have been telling my heavenly Daddy about something that hurt really bad. I don't know what it was, but I felt better afterward.
Later my mood changed, and I began to laugh and talk at the same time. I must have been telling God something funny. Most of the time, though, it was like a normal conversation. At times I noticed my body movements and hand gestures seemed to be controlled by what my tongue was doing and the expressions in my voice.
I could have taken control and stopped at any time, but I wanted this experience to last. So, I continued to "pray with my spirit" as I went down to the end of our driveway to the mailbox and back. I continued to speak with my spirit even while I checked through the mail and read part of it with my mind. Finally, I noticed that I was making the same sound over and over. I decided that the Holy Spirit had stopped, so I did too.
After Sylvia and I were healed in October (which I will tell about in another book), I still had a little pain in my lower back. Randy had said that God told him that it was "echoes of painful memories." After the experience I just described, the pain was completely gone. I don't know why, unless all those remaining stored-up feelings were released as my spirit told my heavenly Daddy about those hurts that I had suppressed and blocked from my memory.
This reminded me of Romans 8:26-27: "We don't know how we should pray, but the Spirit helps our weakness. He personally talks to God for us with feelings which our language cannot express. God searches all men's hearts. He knows what the Spirit is thinking. The Spirit talks to God in behalf of holy people, using the manner which pleases God."
I've been told that Satan hates this experience and will try in some way to attack a person who has it. It wasn't long before I began to have doubts that God was involved. Was this just my imagination running wild? Was I making all those sounds all by myself?
"No way!" I decided. I know my limitations. That night I mustered up the courage to tell Sylvia about my experience.
The Spirit of Doubt
Later I happened to be talking with someone about a business matter. She had told me on another occasion that God had given her a prayer language. I told her about my experience. She assured me that I had prayed with a new language, and that the doubts in my mind had been put there by satan.
Later that day I wrote a letter to Art Thompson about some other matters, and told about my experience. I knew he and Alice Ann would be receptive. A few days later Alice Ann told me on the phone, "Great! More power to you. But, be careful that you're not being deluded."
That raised questions in my mind again. Maybe it was just my imagination. Maybe I wanted this experience so badly that I just "acted" it out. And maybe I continued to do this every day all by myself. That night and the next morning, however, God responded to those thoughts and erased all doubts.
As I prayed in my new language that night, I noticed that I was saying the same phrase over and over. I consciously tried letting my mind take control and deliberately tried to say something different. But that phrase would always come out of my mouth. It was like trying to get out of a rut in the road, or out of an endless loop in a computer programming routine. After 15 minutes (or longer) of the same thing over and over, I quit. I did have control over whether I spoke or not.
The next morning, I tried again. This time I could only say one word -- the same word -- over and over. I could change how fast I said it. I could change how soft or how loud I said it. Or I could stop talking altogether. But when I made a sound, it was always this same word. If what happened the night before didn't confirm that God was using my tongue, this did.
After these two incidents, my new language flowed freely with hardly any repetition that I could notice.
Singing in the Spirit
A few days later, I began to sing in my new language.
I really enjoy singing. I like to sing while I work, while I go for a walk, and at other times when I just feel like singing, especially now that the Lord has given me joy. Because I have trouble remembering the words to songs, even ones I have sung over and over through the years from a hymnbook, my singing was usually reduced to humming after a few words because I could not remember the rest. Now I can "make melody in my heart and sing to the Lord" and let the Holy Spirit supply the words.
The biblical text most descriptive of this is 1 Corinthians 14:28, where Paul says that tongues without interpretation should not be used in the assembly, but rather the person who has such a gift should "speak to himself, and to God." This is what I did.
Two and a half years later on July 21, 1996, the Lord would begin asking me to let Him use my tongue to speak a message in a language I do not know to an assembly. And He would always have someone present to speak the interpretation. And years after that, the Lord would begin to use my tongue to do spiritual warfare in languages I do not know.
The "One True Gift"
In August 1996 I heard a preacher's lesson on "receiving the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking in tongues." His text was Acts 2 and the story of what happened to the Apostles on Pentecost. He said, "That is happening today!"
Well, I have never observed that happening today, and I doubt that he has either.
I have experienced and observed manifestations of God's presence with signs and wonders and miracles today, but what happened to the Apostles seems to be a unique event.
I have never heard a sound like the blowing of a violent wind come from heaven and fill the whole house where we were sitting like it did on Pentecost in the first century. I have never seen what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each person. It was in this setting that everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.
These tongues were different from the private prayer languages of today and the public tongues which require interpretation for those assembled. On this Pentecost people from every nation were hearing the Apostles speak in the native languages of the hearers. This required no interpretation, nor was it a private language for a person to speak to God with. Apparently this particular miracle or spiritual gift was in the hearing, not in the speaking.
Now back to that gathering in 1996 where I was present, the preacher invited those who wanted to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit" to come forward. He prayed for those who came and he coached each of them individually on how to begin (he called it "priming the pump").
Some of them seemed to be successful. It was later announced that these had received the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." However, it seemed to me that they received a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit -- not a "baptism" but a prayer language and the blessings that came with that.
A few days later Art Thompson and I discussed this. Art and I had written and illustrated a book titled "Theophilus and the One True Church" five years earlier and I was in the process of writing a sequel titled "Theophilus and the Powers of Darkness." Art observed that the "One True Church" we had been a member of a few years earlier over-emphasized baptism in water. Now, here was a church that over-emphasizes baptism in the Holy Spirit. He suggested that perhaps "Theophilus and the One True Gift" might be the next book, with "Theophilus and the Powers of Darkness" being the third book in the trilogy.
Art and I could see Satan at work in each case.
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