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Category Archives: Spiritual Walk

The Supernatural Church

I’m continuing to talk about Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian church concerning the public use of prayer in the spirit (tongues) and prophecy.  The apostle now gets into some technical guidelines for their worship service.

What then shall we say, brothers?  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
1 Corinthians 14:26

This verse gives us some insight into the early church.  It seems that they were a lot like us.  There was music, preaching, and prayer.

The difference is that they looked for the supernatural move of the Holy Spirit in their services.  They wanted to hear a revelation from God either through prophecy or tongues and interpretation.

I don’t know why there are people today who feel that the supernatural has no place in a church service.  Paul says that all of these need to be done for the strengthening of the church.  Does the church not need strengthening anymore?  Of course, it does!

But on the other hand, Paul doesn’t want there to be so many unexplainable things happening that outsiders are scared off.  There needs to be spiritual decorum.

So, Paul continues with his advice.  He starts with the gift of tongues and interpretation.

If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.  If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
1 Corinthians 14:27-28

Please remember, this verse is referring to when there’s one main person praying in tongues.  Everyone else is focused on them.  In that case, there must be someone with the gift of interpretation.  If there’s no one to interpret, then no one should be leading out in their prayer language.

But there’s more to this passage.  It also tells me that I can pray in the spirit silently – within myself.  That’s a good thing to know.  There are times that I need to build myself up in the spirit when it’s not appropriate to pray out loud.  These could be times when I’m at school or at work.

Paul also talks about prophecy.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.  And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.  For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.  For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  As in all the congregations of the saints…
1 Corinthians 14:29-33

We need the revelation of God in our church gathering.  But the key is that it’s for our edification.  Therefore, the Lord wants everything done in a decent and orderly way.

There is never a time when anyone will be “out of control.”  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He never takes you over and makes you do things against your will.  You always have the choice to flow with Spirit or ignore Him.

I believe that God wants to show up in our worship services.  Our generation needs to be more open and receptive to the move of the Spirit.

That requires God’s people to spend more quality time in His presence.  The more time we spend with the Lord in private, the more prepared we are for His public appearance.

Question: What experiences, good or bad, have you had with the spiritual gifts in the church?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

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Our Resting Place

I’ve been posting from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  Specifically, we’ve been looking at the spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues.  The Corinthians were misusing these gifts and Paul was bringing correction.

Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
1 Corinthians 14:20

Paul is giving them some much-needed encouragement to grow up.  The word for thinking is referring to the thought processes that control our actions.

Children are, by nature, very selfish.  They don’t do things to be evil, but they are simply not thinking about the people around them.  They know what they want and that’s all that they see.

As we mature, we learn to take other people’s needs into account.  Paul wants us to see that our thinking should bring our actions in line with the love of Christ.  When we desire to bless others, we’re becoming more mature.

Maturity comes as we rest in Christ and learn from Him.

In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.
1 Corinthians 14:21

In telling the church that they need to grow up, Paul refers to an Old Testament Scripture.  It talks about people speaking in a foreign language, yet Israel not listening.  I believe this is something that Paul preached to them while he was at their church, and now he’s reminding them.

What’s this all about?  To understand it, we need to see the whole verse from the book of Isaiah the prophet.

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose” — but they would not listen.
Isaiah 28:11-12

Within this verse are three words that speak to us about the place of resting in God.  The first means a quiet resting place away from any troubling distractions.  The next means a place where you can settle down and abide in safety.  The third means to rest and be refreshed.

These are the things that Paul was reminding the church through referencing this passage.  They need to grow up in their thinking.  They should be seeking the welfare of others in the gathering of the saints.

But how is it that you grow up in your thinking?  It only comes as you spend quality time resting in Christ.  Jesus told us that we need to abide in Him if we want to live that abundant life.

In previous posts, we saw that prayer in the spirit (tongues) builds us up, personally.  That’s the place of rest and growth.  As I regularly pray in the spirit in my private time, I experience the growth that I need to be a blessing in public.

When I pray in the spirit, I’m resting, abiding, in Christ.  That’s the most powerful tool of self-edification that I could ever access.  God has freely given this to all of His children.  Unfortunately, as the Scripture says, many refuse to hear this Word.

Allow the Holy Spirit to build you up and bring maturity in a powerful way.  Spend time praying in the spirit.

Question: How have you experienced growth and maturity by the power of the Holy Spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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God in Control

I’m taking a few posts to talk about how God uses tongues and interpretation, as well as prophecy, to build up the church.  Most people understand why prophecy is important.  Tongues is a little more controversial.

For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.  For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
NIV

Paul shows us three things in this short passage.  First, my body is speaking in an unknown language.  At the same time, my mind is unfruitful.  But the most important aspect is the fact that my spirit is praying to God.

Notice that when I pray in the spirit, my spirit and body are active, but my mind is not a part of what’s transpiring. That’s because the gift of tongues is a physical reaction to a spiritual event.  My flesh doesn’t know how to handle what’s happening with me in the spirit.

According to this verse, what comes out of my mouth may or may not have anything to do with what’s happening in the spirit.  That includes the length of the “conversation”, any repetition, the language, or even the physical words spoken.

For instance; as my spirit is praying to God, a Native American may hear “Praise God, praise God, praise God” coming out of my mouth.

Prayer in the spirit – tongues – is for a spiritual exchange.  It’s all about communication with the Holy Spirit of God.  I can say “praise God” well enough in English.  So it’s not about what’s coming out of my mouth.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8

That’s why the gift of tongues is only a temporary gifting. It will be unneeded in our resurrected body. We need this supernatural gift right now.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:7-8

Our tongue can be a big problem.  According to James, animals can be tamed; but you can’t tame the tongue.

What’s the difference between something tame and something wild?  Tame is about character.  A tame dog scratches at the door when he needs to relieve himself.  He’ll wait for you to feed him.

With a wild animal, it’s all instinct. They’ll do what they want whenever or wherever they are.

I’d like my tongue to be self-controlled.  But it’s not going to happen all by itself.

Is a lion in a zoo tame?  No; it’s simply being controlled.  The fact is, you can’t tame the tongue, but it can be controlled…if you’ll let God have control of your tongue.  Then the rest of your life is easy to turn over.

Have you ever noticed how easily we’ll give over control of most things to others?  We’ll let hair stylists, beauticians, surgeons, and trainers take over those areas of our lives.  But not the tongue.

I believe that’s why this gift is so controversial.  I’ve heard people say, “Even if you convince me it’s of God, I’m still not going to seek this gift.”

That’s because tongues are about giving control to God.  Prayer in the spirit is about learning to hear and yield to God.  When it comes to control, that’s the one thing we don’t want to relinquish in our lives.

As believers, we should be daily giving over more and more control to the Holy Spirit.

Question: How has prayer in the spirit positively changed your life?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Passion for the Spiritual

I’m continuing to post about Paul’s exhortation to build up the church.  That’s found in his first letter to the Corinthians.  We’re now in chapter 14.

So it is with you.  Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12

This verse strikes at the heart of one of the biggest misunderstandings that we can have as believers.  I’ve heard many people speak out against the usage of the Gifts of the Spirit.

Some say that these gifts ceased with the original 12 apostles.  Others teach that we have no say in what gifts we receive.  God’s sovereign choice is the only determining factor in the giving of these gifts.

I was very careful in the above two paragraphs to use the word “gifts”.  That’s an important point that I want to make.  The word, gift, has a certain connotation in our society.

When I think of what a gift is, I think of something that somebody picked out just for me.  The giver determines what the gift is, who it will go to, and when it will be given.  That’s the problem addressed by this verse.

Scripturally speaking, the “Gifts of the Spirit” are not gifts.  That’s a term that man has come up with for tongues, prophecy, miracles, etc.

Even in the above verse, the English translation uses the word gifts twice.  But the word gift is not in the Greek original of that verse at all.

The Bible calls these things workings or manifestations of the Spirit.  They’re the functions of the Holy Spirit through the church.  It’s how the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the world.

That’s why it’s foolish to say that the “Gifts of the Spirit” have ceased.  That’s like saying that the Holy Spirit has ceased doing His job.

We need to hear what the above verse actually says in its original language.  It reads, “Since you are passionate about spiritual things, be passionate about super-abounding at building up the church.”

The Holy Spirit wants to work through us.  He’s looking for people who are willing to be used.  These signs, wonders, and miracles are how He operates.

I believe that when it comes to these workings, it has more to do with our willingness than God’s sovereign choice.  That’s why we’re told to passionately pursue those spiritual workings that build up the church.  It’s something I can strive for.

I think it’s funny that the word passion appears twice in the original of this verse, and not once in English.  Passion is something I can cultivate.  The more time I spend with the Holy Spirit, the more passionate I become towards Him and His work.

Spend time in the spirit.  Develop a passion for His work.  Then, expect to see the miracles that can only come from the Holy Spirit working through you.  Make it your desire to use this spiritual work to bless and build up all those who the Lord brings into your life.

Question: Why is our willingness to be used by God so important?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Prophecy vs. Tongues

We’re continuing to go through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s dealing with the lack of love evident in their services.  In chapter 14, the apostle is talking specifically about the gifts of prophecy and tongues.

But that brings me to an important point that many people miss who try to forbid the use of prayer in the spirit (tongues).  They use these verses because they sound somewhat against this gift.

There’s a reason for this.  Paul’s not giving us a complete teaching on the gift of tongues.  He’s talking specifically about the Corinthian church’s abuse of it during their public gatherings.  That’s the application of this section.

I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.  He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
1 Corinthians 14:5

We have to understand that this entire verse is Scripture.  There is absolutely no basis upon which to conclude that “I would rather have you prophesy” negates “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.”

It’s Paul’s (and the Holy Spirit’s) desire that everyone uses their spiritual language in prayer.  However, because of the love issue in this church, Paul would rather see the church edified.

In order for this to happen, they need to hear a Word from God.  More than that, they need to hear it in a language that they understand.

In this church, it must have been common for someone to get up before the congregation and pray in the spirit for a great length of time.  The speaker was built up, but the congregation was untouched.  There was nothing there to build anyone up.

That’s the situation that Paul was addressing.  When people come to a church gathering, there should be an expectation that they’ll receive something life-changing.  We’re not there to simply watch a spiritual show.

There needs to be something that will speak power into the lives of the hearers.  That means either a prophetic word or an interpretation of tongues.

That brings me to my next important point.  What exactly is the interpretation of tongues?

When I pray in tongues, I’m speaking mysteries to God.  My mind doesn’t know what’s being communicated.  So there are some who have concluded that a true interpretation will always be directed toward God.

It turns out there are two related Greek words that are used for the gift of interpretation.  In English, I would describe them as interpretation and interpretation-through.

I believe that interpretation is speaking forth in my native language exactly what is being communicated to God in my spirit.  Interpretation-through is God’s response to what I just said to Him in my spirit.  That’s why many times the length of the interpretation has no relationship to the length of the prayer in tongues.

The Greek word used in the above verse is interpretation-through.  That’s how the church is edified.  We’re built up either through a prophetic word from God or God’s personal response to a spiritual inquiry from our hearts.

We need all the Gifts of the Spirit active in the church to see God’s will accomplished in the earth.

Question: How have you experienced the gift of interpretation?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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How to Build Yourself Up

Many people ask why prayer in the spirit is so important.  Very often, it’s used as a spiritual toy that we only take out to play with on Sunday mornings.  Scripture lets us know that it’s much more than that.

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
1 Corinthians 14:3-4

I’ve heard others talk about this passage of Scripture.  As I’ve said before, some think it means, “Prophecy good, tongues bad.”  The truth of the matter is that these are two totally different gifts that are to be used for two totally different purposes.

The reason God gives you the gift of this spiritual language is to edify you!  The word, edify, literally means to build up.  I can’t serve God without constantly being built up on the inside.  One of the most important reasons that God has given us this gift is so that we can regularly strengthen ourselves by the spirit.

Look at what Paul says further down in this chapter.

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
1 Corinthians 14:14

This verse tells us that it’s our spirit, not our mouth that’s doing the praying.  My mind doesn’t understand what’s taking place.  This is because the communication that’s going on is spiritual.  At one point the Lord gave me an excellent illustration to emphasize this truth.

During a sermon when I was speaking on this topic, I asked my Assistant Pastor to come up front to help me demonstrate.  I gave him no prior warning as to what would be happening.  I then gave him a CD player and told him to place the earphones on.

I told him and the congregation, that when I press the play button, my assistant would hear a pastor preaching a salvation message.  What I wanted my assistant to do was to speak out loud exactly what the pastor on the CD was saying, word for word.  The result got quite a reaction.  This was because the pastor on the CD was preaching in the Korean language!

This is a beautiful picture of what happens when we pray in the spirit.  Your mind hears your spirit praying in a language it doesn’t recognize – the language of the spirit.  It tries to mimic it with your mouth but only ends up sounding unintelligible.

This is why what we hear coming out of someone’s mouth doesn’t always parallel what’s said by the gift of interpretation.  Your spirit might be interceding for a need, while your mouth is merely saying “Praise the Lord” over and over again in Russian.

It’s interesting to note here exactly what the gift of interpretation is as mentioned in the Bible.  The word the Apostle used means to put into words.  Basically, this means that the message we hear by the gift of interpretation was not in words until it was interpreted.  This goes right along with the truth that it’s our spirit praying and not our mouth.

This is also why the gift of tongues will cease after the resurrection.  The only reason that we speak this way during the use of the gift is that our minds don’t grasp what’s taking place in our spirit.  After the resurrection, we’ll still communicate with God in the spirit, but because our mind and body will be perfected, it will not have this outward effect anymore.

Question: How have you been built up by praying in the spirit?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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The Purpose of Prophecy

In talking about the Gifts of the Spirit, I’ve said that each gift has its own unique purpose.  Prophecy is no exception.  Paul explains this to the Corinthian Church.

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:3

The first thing that we see is that prophecy is for the benefit of others.  The person operating in this gift is speaking to people.  The church needs to hear a Word from God.  This Word provides three important benefits to the hearers.

Strengthening.  This is a very interesting concept.  The Greek word actually used is a compound word.  It literally means house-building.

It’s not just about the construction.  The word picture is of a house being completed.  The Holy Spirit is in the process of constructing a new, abundant life for you.

In order for the work to be completed according to the Lord’s specifications, we need to hear a Word from Heaven.  I believe this is applicable to us whether you’re talking about our lives personally or collectively as the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Prophecy is a big part of the building process.  It’s too bad that many think these gifts are unneeded in the modern church.

Encouragement.  This is from a Greek word that means to call alongside.  I think the best way to explain it is to think about the job of a coach.  An athlete’s coach comes alongside them and calls out instructions for the player to carry out.

In this way, the athlete can function at the best of his or her ability.  The coach can usually see things that the players miss.  That’s because the coach operates on the “big picture”.  The athlete, on the other hand, sometimes is focused only on their particular role.

The Holy Spirit wants to be our Life-Coach.  We need to hear prophecy to give us the course correction needed to bring out the best in us.  Don’t minimize the importance of this in your life.

Comfort.  This is one of those words that are jam-packed with meaning in the Scripture.  The Greek word, itself, is about a talk that’s designed to change your attitude.  There are a few specific changes that are included in this.

One of these changes is in persuading you when you’re unsure.  You might think that God is leading you in a certain direction, but there’s uncertainty.  A word of prophecy can confirm it to you one way or the other.

Another case is when you need to be aroused or stimulated.  We sometimes get apathetic about the things of God.  A prophetic word can stir us back into action.  We need it to stay focused on our calling in the Lord.

Finally, it can work on us when we’re allowing anxiety and doubt to cloud our thinking.  A prophecy can break though our wrong thinking and set us back on the solid footing of God’s Word.  When the fog of doubt lifts, fear and anxiety will have no place in our mind.

As you can see by these effects, the Word of Prophecy should be an important part of any church.  When we come together as believers, this gift can uplift us to a new level of walk before God.

I don’t believe that the true use of this gift has to sound weird or spooky.  It’s simply being used by the Holy Spirit to speak a needed message into the lives of those around us.  Spend time in the Lord’s presence, making yourself available to be used in this valuable gift.  He may just give you a word that someone desperately needs to hear.

Question: How has a word of prophecy strengthened your walk with God?

© 2019 Nick Zaccardi

 

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