Monday, November 12, 2012

God is Really Among You!

But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" -1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (NIV)

I am thankful that I was exposed to many different expressions of faith as a child. On Sunday mornings, I'd go to the Baptist Church. On Sunday nights, I'd go to the United Methodist Church. I lived across the street from the Church of Christ and I had friends who were Presbyterian so it was also not unusual for me to attend church in those two places as well.

But it was experience in the Church of God tradition that I probably remember best from my childhood. My mother had several friends who worshiped there and we'd go visit from time to time, especially during Vacation Bible School. The people were very friendly, the food was always delicious, and VBS was always a lot of fun. But what I recall most about that experience was the fact that, when we prayed together, everyone prayed out loud at the same time. Even more memorable to my young mind was that sometimes people "spoke in tongues".

Though unfamiliar to me, I didn't mind the praying out loud part. You could be quiet and listen to what other people were praying about and sometimes hear some interesting stuff about people you knew. But the speaking in tongues part always scared me. I couldn't understand what in the world they were saying. I couldn't help but get the feeling that they were possessed...and not necessarily by the Holy Spirit. Because I was frightened, because I couldn't understand what they were saying, and especially because I had never spoken in tongues myself, I was often hesitant to go back again.

Now that I'm older and have read passages like the one suggested for today, I find myself thankful for those experiences at the Church of God. I have a better understanding of why they did (do) what they did (do). People who speak in tongues do not speak to people but instead to God (14:1). When a person is speaking in tongues, there should always be someone there to interpret it to others in attendance. And I don't have to worry that I've never spoken in tongues myself because apparently not everyone has that gift. But Paul states that everyone does have the ability to prophecy (14:31).

Even though I've never spoken in tongues, I am mindful that I often speak in a language that some don't understand. When I use words like sanctification, liturgical, Lent, or Advent, there are usually people who are not familiar with these words or concepts. In the same way that a person speaking in tongues needs an interpreter, I need to make sure that I speak in a language that others can hear, understand, and to which they can respond to the Good News of Jesus.

I don't know how you feel about speaking in tongues but it's pretty clear to me that it's biblical and of God. But it is important, as the key verse I've chosen this morning says, that we speak in ways that confirm that God is among us.

May God grant you the grace to hear and to speak in a way that confirms that God is really among you today.

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If you're interested in reading through the Bible in a year, tomorrow's readings are Psalm 149 and 1 Corinthians 15-16.

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