My Real Life Experiences with Spiritual Gifts: TONGUES, by Bob West

Public Tongues

After being a dedicated member of organized religion for forty years, I terminated my membership with a letter to the local Elders of that denomination on December 17, 1987. For the next seven years Sylvia and I were alone with the Lord while He worked on our relationship with Him and with each other. It was during this time that the Lord gave me my "prayer language," the gift of tongues, gifts of healings, prophetic dreams and interpretations.

Then on Sunday morning, July 16, 1995, Jesus led us to the worship service at Joy Outreach Fellowship, where Richard and Judy Jennings are pastors. We were there for a purpose, but it would not be for membership in their organization. Jesus has continued to be my head and my "covering" according to 1 Corinthians 11:3.

The dress and service at Joy Outreach is casual and charismatic. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and shed some tears as I saw Him working. It was good to know that there were others in the area who we could relate to spiritually.

A year later on Sunday morning, July 21, 1996, I woke up remembering a dream I had during the night. I recognized it as a repeat of a dream I had in the past, but had not remembered it well enough to record it in my dream journal.

In this dream I was with some people, many of whom I did not know. I was in a large house, where I was trying to find my way around and get familiar with my surroundings.

In the dream I went to pick up my car from the garage, where I had left it to be recharged. I saw it parked beside some other cars as I went to pay the bill. The man looked over my bill and said that I did not owe them anything. I looked back in the direction where I had seen the car, and it was no longer there. I informed the man and he said that they must have moved it to one of their parking lots. He did not offer to help me find it and I didn't know where to look.

After searching alone in vain, I found a couple of employees to help me. We went to a parking lot. They looked around and didn't see the car and left. Then I asked someone else, who seemed to work there, if he had seen a blue Subaru station wagon. He said, "Yes, it is right over there." I looked where he was pointing and saw it on the bed of a tow truck. Before I could catch up with the two employees to tell them, the truck left with my car. I saw it going down a street in town, but then it disappeared.

I was frustrated. I returned to the place where I was staying. The one person I was most familiar with was not there. They did not know when he would be back. It was getting dark outside. I knew we would never find my car in unfamiliar surroundings in the dark. That was the end of the dream.

I asked the Lord what this meant. Did the car have something to do with control? It was my car and couldn't I drive it anywhere I wanted to, if only I had it back? Then I remembered a dream I had on August 3, 1994, and the interpretation I received on October 13th. My car was in the repair shop. The Lord said that the car is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in my life. The Holy Spirit is getting me ready for "my trip with God." According to this latest dream, my car is ready to be picked up. Why am I having trouble getting it?

Another recent dream came to mind -- the one about a gigantic super-duper shiny white pickup truck with a woman (the Holy Spirit?) driving. It pulled up beside Richard and me and he climbed aboard. I think I did too, but I'm not sure. Maybe the Lord wants both Richard and me to board the transportation He has for us. One like we've never seen before!

Another clue came when I read the final pages of Chuck Colson's story, Born Again. Something he wrote seemed to jump right off the page at me, and affected me deeply: "It was that night in the quiet of my room that I made the total surrender..."

At that moment I was inspired to say, "Lord, I totally surrender to you! I hold nothing back! I'll do anything you want me to do!"

Later at Joy Outreach, Richard opened the service with some announcements. Then he began leading us in prayer. While he was praying aloud, I silently added a few words of my own. I told the Lord that I hold nothing back. I give up the past. I turn it all over to Him. I'll do whatever He wants me to do, no matter what others think of me. Then, as if to see how serious I was, God said He wanted to use me to speak a message to the congregation in tongues!

Suddenly I went into "shock!" My teeth seemed to clamp together on their own. I think I started perspiring. I didn't want to back down on my commitment, but I didn't want to do this either. Many thoughts ran through my mind. I began explaining to the Lord...

"Lord, you know that I have never done this before."

"And Lord, I've only heard someone speak in tongues in an assembly with someone providing the interpretation two times in my entire life -- once a year ago, and once this year. And it wasn't all that long ago that I still believed it couldn't be done today. What if I mess up and look foolish?"

"And Lord, who will give the interpretation? What if no one does?!! The apostle Paul told the Corinthians not to speak in tongues in an assembly unless someone interprets."

Later I would think how silly it was to be telling the Lord all that. But at the time these seemed to me to be valid arguments.

But then maybe this was just my imagination, and not God. However I knew better. And I had begun to perspire. I didn't want to back down on my commitment, but I didn't want to do this either. It never occured to me that the Lord might expect me to do something like this. As the service progressed, I put this out of my mind and I relaxed.

Then as John Linville and the Agape Praise and Worship Team were finishing the second song, it happened! The singing and the music became subdued, quiet, and reflective. A stillness that I recognized as the presence of the Holy Spirit settled in the room, and I heard a wee small voice say, "Get ready."

I felt a strong presence of the Holy Spirit not only throughout my body, but beyond my body as well. I was completely submerged in His presence. I knew He wanted me to release my tongue to Him to speak aloud in whatever language He chose. Many other thoughts also ran through my mind. What if I mess up and look foolish? And who will give the interpretation?

The song finished. There was silence for what seemed like an eternity, but it was actually just a few seconds. Now was the time to release my tongue to God, but I could not bring myself to open my mouth. The opportunity passed, and I failed.

Then my conscience began working on me. Or was it the Holy Spirit? Yes, it was the Holy Spirit. These thoughts: "Bob, you told Me you would do anything I asked you to do. I asked you to do this and gave you the opportunity, but you didn't do it." The thought of confessing all this came to mind, and I decided to tell Richard and Judy about it in private after the service was over. But when the next song was complete, John Linville announced, "There is someone here who has something to say. We will hear from you now."

I knew he was referring to me. But I wanted to be sure. I hesitated, but only for a moment. Then I stood and made my confession to the entire assembly.

I told how the Lord had spoken to me today, first by a dream, then by Colson's book, and then by something Richard said during his lesson that let me know that I had not completely surrendered my will to God. And when I assured the Lord that I surrender unconditionally to Him, He put me to the test. And I failed.

A lady a few seats away said, "The Lord will give you another opportunity."

John Linville said, "Prophecy is subject to the prophet. The Lord will ask you again, brother. And when He is ready for you to do it, you won't be able to keep quiet."

Then Richard told us that the Lord had given him a message in English a few minutes ago, and that it must be the interpretation to Bob's tongue. Then he gave the interpretation to the message in tongues that I failed to speak.

I was amazed! The Lord had just let me know that He had Richard ready to interpret. If only I had stepped out in faith and obeyed! But the Lord would give me another opportunity.

Many opportunities actually. But the next one would be almost a year later.

March 30, 1997. This was Easter Sunday. It was also special in another way. It was the first time I ever spoke a message in an unknown tongue in an assembly. It happened at Joy Outreach.

To begin with, Judy was making announcements. One thing she announced was that the Lord was calling their group to fast during the month of April.

I had come to the assembly knowing that the Lord wanted me to make a correction and apology for something I had said at our gathering last Tuesday night. But when I looked arounnd at those present, I saw hardly anyone who had been at that meeting. Most were different people. I began to think that maybe I should wait until the following Tuesday night, when those who were there last week might be present to hear what I had to say. But as Judy continued talking, I wasn't so sure. Maybe the Lord wants me to do it today.

Suddenly, Judy looked straight at me and said, "What is it, Bob? Did you have something you wanted to say?"

"When there is an opportunity, I want to make a correction and an apology," I responded.

She asked if I would like to do it now. I said, "The sooner the better."

"Come on up then," she invited.

I stood up and said something similar to the following: "Tuesday night I made the comment about the prayer life of some, that it consisted of giving thanks at the dinner table and listening to someone say a prayer at church on Sunday. Later the Lord spoke to me -- through Sylvia. He said, "Those people love Me. You do not know what their prayer life is like. What you said was inaccurate and unkind."

"I apologize for making that remark," I added.

Shortly after that we entered into praise and worship, and I really sensed the Lord's presence. We all sang and James McCall played the piano. By the time we finished the last song, there was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was there.

As Steve Hooper, a visiting preacher from a church in Kingsport, Tennessee, walked to the podium, he asked James to continue playing. I was singing in the Spirit very quietly to the tune of the music. I continued to do so as Steve began to pray aloud.

With the music still playing, Steve stopped praying to say that someone present has a tongue... or a prophecy... and I felt led to raise my voice and allow the Lord to use it to speak out in a language I did not understand. As soon as this happened, everything else, including the music, stopped!

Silence, except for my voice!

The increased volume was gradual at first. Soon it was loud and sounded to me like there was authority behind it. Toward the end of the message the emotion in my voice changed to what seemed to me to be a loving plea. The volume of my voice decreased and trailed off to a whisper before ending.

Steve said that there was someone present who had the interpretation to this, and made an appeal for that person to speak up. He said the person who had the interpretation had not done this before. Then he said that the Lord has given the message to another person as a backup, but that we will wait another minute or two for the one who would be doing this for the first time to speak. No one did, so Steve spoke the interpretation that the Lord had given him.

I don't remember much of the message, but it was something about the changes that the Lord was doing to us. He was doing something new that had not been done before. There was more, but I don't remember the specifics.

Steve's sermon was about the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was a blessing!

Richard told me later that my confession was a blessing to him and to others, as well as freeing the Spirit up to flow through me like He did. He said that many would think what I said was no big deal, not something that needed to be repented of and confessed, but it was something that grieved the Holy Spirit.

And then there was my experience with tongues that surprised a bunch of people, including me. It happened on April 26, 1997, in a communiity center in LaFayette, Georgia, where we gathered with other disciples for a weekend of study and worship. There were around 75 in attendance, 60 of whom were adults. Almost all of these had spent most of their lives in the same denomination I had, which taught that spiritual gifts passed away when the Bible was complete.

During the past few years most of them have been struggling to be free of the legalism of that system and have a closer relationship with Jesus. Sylvia and I had been with them at such an event five years earlier in Lake City, Florida, where the Lord used an event and experience to grow us spiritually and change our approach from a structured "church service" type of gathering to an open family type of gathering where people feel free to share their secret hurts, etc., and be ministered to by those present.

Since we were in LaFayette and the Thompsons were acting as hosts and had made the arrangements, Art opened the session with brief introductions, and announced that it had been decided at the last gathering that we would study spiritual gifts at this one. Then he invited others to talk. And the Holy Spirit took charge.

We had come to study spiritual gifts. Then it happened. We saw spiritual gifts in action with many being used by the Lord. And the Holy Spirit was the teacher.

Monte Baugh talked about the name of the Lord, that "I AM" means "I AM BECOMING" whatever He needs to become for His will to be done.

There was a time of many asking for prayers for various needs. Then there was a time of prayer by many.

I walked around the room and laid my hands on some while others prayed for various ones and their needs. I was moved to turn my tongue over to the Lord and heard myself praying quietly in a language I did not know and saw myself sweeping my hands in the air over the group. I guess the Lord was using my tongue and gesters to pray blessings over each one there. At least it seemed that way to me.

At one point I walked around behind Art and Alice Ann Thompson and put my hands on them while I was praying for the families of those present.

Then I began praying in tongues again, but this time aloud and boldly as a burst of energy flowed through my body. Larry Kippenhan was beside me with his hands on Art and Alice Ann too. He was praying for them and their family in English while I was praying in an unknown language.

At that time I had a prayer language for around three years, but this was only the second time I had spoken aloud like that in an assembly for all to hear. And I did not plan to do it either time. If my focus had been on myself or on who was present, it would have been very difficult for me to do what I did. I was simply moving as the Holy Spirit led. (Many who were present had not heard anyone speak in a tongue before and would still think that spiritual gifts were for the first century only.) My focus was on the Lord, on worshipping and praising Him, and praying for those present. During this time I felt His presence in a powerful way. What I did seemed so natural at the time, as natural as breathing the air around me. It was hours later when I began to realize the significance of what I was involved in, and I continued to ponder and analyze the event during the days that followed.

After we finished praying, David Dolejs referred to my speaking in a tongue. He said that while I was speaking, the Lord told him to read a passage of scripture. Then he read aloud the first 14 verses of Ezekiel 37:

"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?

"I said, 'O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.'

"Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'

"So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

"Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live,' So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet -- a vast army.

"Then he said to me: 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'"

When David finished reading, I said, "That is what the Lord has been doing for me. He has been bringing my dead bones to life."

As I reflect back now on that time together, I realize that the Lord is doing that for all of us. And He was announcing that fact with the reading of that Scripture.

As we broke for lunch there was discussion about what had happened. Some were amazed and puzzled. They had heard someone speak in tongues; where was the interpretation? I even began to wonder that myself before I remembered that I had been praying to God, not speaking a prophetic message to the group.

I thought back over what I had prayed in English after I prayed in tongues. I believe those were thoughts and words that the Lord gave me to say. I wondered if I had given the interpretation myself.

During a discussion at the Thompsons after everyone had left for home, Art said that he had a theory. He asked if we remembered what was happening at that time, where I was and who was beside me. He said that he felt the Lord was using Larry Kippenhan to interpret for him and Alice Ann what I was praying in tongues. As he said this, the Lord confirmed to me that yes, this is what He had done. My spirit was using my tongue with the help of the Holy Spirit to speak to God on behalf of Art and Alice Ann and their family, and at the same time He was giving Larry those same thoughts to pray in English.

And apparently the Lord was also using this event to amaze and puzzle some of those present; to stir up interest and discussion.

During our informal discussion time, two others and I talked about spiritual gifts, primarily tongues and how I came to be involved in that.

During supper time someone else asked me about speaking in tongues, so we went outside where I shared my experiences with him. He was appreciative and said he was going to ask the Lord to give him that experience.

The group discussion had already begun when we came back in to join the others. Art had started the session by reading what happened in Acts 2, about Joel's prophecy, the people's reaction, and the fact that we are still living in those "last days." Different ones spoke what was on their mind and then we dismissed.

At the Thompsons' home, where Sylvia and I were staying, we were up until 2 a.m. From what I heard later, some others were up late talking about the day as well. Art said that the Lord had used me as a catalyst.

June 29, 1997. This morning I felt a strong presence of the Lord in our assembly. After one of the songs "speaking in tongues" came to mind, but I dismissed the thought. Then as the next song began, the Spirit came on me stronger and I was certain that He wanted me to speak to the assembly in tongues. I also wondered, as I have in the past, if there was someone there to interpret. I decided to "step out in faith," and leave that part to the Lord. As the music and singing quieted down enough, I spoke out.

After I finished, I waited along with the rest of the people to hear someone give the interpretation. It did not seem like anyone was going to. Finally PK Price spoke one sentence. Something about "the Refiner's fire." To me this did not seem like the interpretation to what I had just said. There was not enough to it.

After the service, Richard Jennings came to me and said that he wanted to apologize, that the Lord had given him the interpretation to my tongue, but he had quenched the Spirit and had not been obedient. He said he was struggling with whether what he had was from his flesh or from the Spirit when PK spoke about the Refiner's fire. He said that was the beginning of the message he had. This let him know that what he had was indeed from the Lord. He was about to go ahead and speak it, but the service went another way and he missed it.

July 2, 1997. Tonight at Joy Outreach I testified concerning how the Lord has been growing my trust in Him. I mentioned resigning my membership in organized religion in 1987 after serving a Church for 40 years, our doctrine of cessation of miracles, turning my life over to Jesus and seeking a personal relationship with Him, receiving my prayer language three and a half years ago, the encouragement the Lord gave me from time to time to give Him more control, about telling Him a year ago that I would do anything He wants me to do, his test of that by letting me know that He wanted to use me to speak a message in tongues to the assembly, my failure to do so, then another opportunity in March 1997 in which the Lord provided Steve Hooper to give me the courage to respond, and then another opportunity Sunday morning, June 29, 1997, to which I responded on my own, PK's one-line interpretation, and Richard's apology after the service. He said he had the interpretation but did not give it. I said that I had been wondering if the Lord had let me down after I trusted Him, but He showed me once again that we can trust Him.

Jeanne McCoy told me that interpretations are just that. They are interpretations, not translations. The interpretation is not a word for word translation of the tongue. The length of one has nothing to do with the length of the other. She also suggested that I pray that I might be able to interpret my own "tongue."

December 14, 1997. This morning at Joy Outreach, the Lord prompted me to speak to the assembly in tongues. I told the Lord that I didn't want to do it, that I had done that already, but then quickly repented. I was unable to wholly participate in the service from that point on while I looked for an opening (or the Lord's timing) to be obedient. While the service continued to go on around me, I was thinking about that and looking for an opportunity to speak without disrupting something else. Finally I said, "Okay, Lord. I'm going limp and flowing in Your Spirit. Move me when you're ready."

Later, at the end of a song the time seemed right and I spoke. Everyone in the room became silent when I began speaking in a tongue. When I stopped speaking, there was a long silence before James McCall spoke the interpretation. The long silence did not bother me. This time while I was waiting for the opportunity to speak, I decided to obey whether anyone spoke the interpretation or not.

The interpretation was about spending more time with the Lord and letting Him prepare us to minister to others.

After the service James said that the reason it took so long for him to begin speaking is that he was arguing with the Lord over whether he should be the one to interpret since he had not been spending time with the Lord this past week.

Later Judy told me that while James was giving the prophetic message, she thought if he doesn't shut up soon, he will preach my sermon. At the same time I had been thinking how the last time I spoke a tongue, the interpretation was just one sentence. This time James seemed to go on and on. One interpretation seemed too short. The other seemed too long. But now I understand that it is an interpretation, not a translation. And James naturally takes longer to say things than some people.

The Lord began to ask me to use my tongue in an assembly more often. On July 5, 1998, the Lord prompted me to speak in tongues and He gave the interpretation through Judy Jennings.

During the Sunday morning assembly a week later the Lord let me know that He wanted me to speak in tongues again. I did not feel comfortable doing it again so soon. I said, "Lord, don't ask that of me today." Immediately, the thought that the Lord wanted me to speak vanished.

The Holy Spirit is gentle with the children of God. He will not embarrass you. He will not take control and make you lose control. He does not "move in" against someone's own will. That's not His style. That's not His mission. His mission is as a Comforter. I was learning to be more comfortable with Him.

At the Wednesday night service three days later we had praise and worship and testimonies of words from the Lord to encourage Paula K., who was deathly ill with liver cancer. Again the Lord asked me speak in tongues to the assembly. As I began to do so, I began crying, and that emotion was manifest in my voice. I believe the Lord was letting me feel a little of how He feels about what Paula was going through. Someone from the Living Waters ministry named Barbara was at the keyboard. She gave the interpretation. It went something like this: "My little children, why do you run from Me? There is healing under My wings. Come to Me..." There was more, but I don't remember the rest.

During the years that followed, the Lord used me many times to speak in tongues to assemblies, and He always used someone present to give the interpretations. A few of those services were recorded, so I was able to get copies of the tapes. The following quote is from one of them.

In response to a message in tongues that I spoke in an assembly on May 16, 1999, the Holy Spirit gave the following interpretation through Richard Jennings:

"Busy! Busy! Busy! Run here! Do this! Run there! Do that! Busy. Busy. Busy. You are burdened down by the things of this world.

"PEACE!!! Be still and know that I am God!

"It is my desire to dwell with you in the secret place. For many times you have sought My hand, but it is My face that I desire you to seek. And seeking My face, you will receive ALL of My grace. My blessings abound to those around Me who surround Me and come into My secret place. Prioritize your life. Get it in order. I've given you clear instruction. It is through obedience to My word that you receive My blessing. But you must be willing to step out of your comfort and into My pain. For without identifying yourself with My pain and laying down your life that you might receive Mine, there is no gain.

"Things! Busy. Busy. Busy. Shut the door on the world and come away with Me into a secret place and I will show you things that you know not of. My grace and My mercy will surround you. Your provisions will be met and you will be My blessing in this earth and you will bear testimony to your friends and to your neighbors and everywhere that you go, as My love will flow through a forgiving soul who is forgiven. My grace and My testimony will be on your lips so that you will win the lost to Me and you will bring in those whom I have chosen and set apart, those whom I know will receive My word.

"Busy. Busy. Busy. Be busy about My business and everything else will fall away."

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