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The Miracle Of Tongues


"I am Pentecostal by experience but not by doctrine," I told my Pentecostal pastor friend Todd.  Being curious and a bit surprised, he asked, "What does that mean?"  Doctrinally speaking, I'm neither Pentecostal nor non-Pentecostal concerning what is called the Baptism in the Spirit.  Like many doctrinal issues I'm caught in doctrinal limbo, not fully embracing any one set of denominational distinctives.  All that being said, if you insist on labelling me, I am Pentecostal Charismatic by experience because every day since December, 1971, I have prayed in tongues. 


I was raised in a non-Pentecostal church environment that was definitely not excited about tongues.  It was my friends Jim and Marlene Williams, back in the spring of 1971 that redirected my path on this issue.  They took me and my friend Dawne Brown to Christ Center, in Lexington, Kentucky.  There, for the first time in my life I was blown away when I heard a group of believers singing in tongues, something the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 14:15.  This spiritual song sounded angelic, straight from the choirs of heaven.  I returned home with one thing on my mind.  I wanted to pray in tongues. 


My desire to pray in tongues was met with opposition in the church in which I was raised.  One man told me that I should seek the giver of the gifts, not the gifts.  I got his point, but I was seeking the giver of the gifts.  There was no doubt about that.  I just figured that if Jesus was handing out gifts, I'd stand in line and ask for one.  I didn't see any harm in that.  I had already learned by then that we are to eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1).


The controversy over tongues in my home church led me to fellowship with my new found Charismatic Movement friends led by my high school teacher Glen Shaver.  This provided the atmosphere where the gifts of the Holy Spirit could be distributed among us according to God's will, as stated in Hebrews 2:4.       


In my search for tongues I asked my best friend, Robert Bailey , how I could pray in tongues.  He told me that if I spoke the word "hallelujah" 10 times real fast my tongue would flip over and tongues would fly from my lips.  Of course he was jesting.  Another man who was not jesting told me to invent my own tongues and speak them by faith.  Sooner or later Jesus would honour my faith and give me the real thing.  One day while at the altar of our local Pentecostal church I overheard a visiting preacher telling the man beside me to repeat his tongues.  The preacher told the man that if he copied his tongues the real tongues would soon follow.  I refused to accept these humanistic attempts to duplicate the supernatural.  Believe me, there has been a lot of wackiness among Pentecostal Charismatics over the years.


I was told that the denomination in which I was raised believed in Acts 2 style tongues, which it claimed was a form of preaching the gospel.  This meant that if a missionary could not speak a foreign language on the mission field the Lord might give him the gift of tongues so he could preach in the local language, as was supposedly the case in Acts 2.  There's a problem with that thinking.  Those speaking in tongues in Acts 2 were not preaching the gospel.  They were praising and glorifying God according to Acts 2:11.  Peter proclaimed the gospel in his own language after the tongues had subsided, resulting in 3,000 people coming to Jesus.  According to 1 Corinthians 14:2 tongues is a prayer; mysteries spoken to God.  It's not a message spoken to people.  Most traditional Pentecostals miss that.   


During the spring of 1971 Jesus gave me 3 words of tongues; one word on 3 different occasions.  I was excited about that, but I eventually got discouraged.  I questioned that 3 words constituted valid tongues.  So, over the next few months I gave up on my quest for tongues, thinking my 3 words were fake tongues.  My friends could pray in tongues.  I'd stick with English.    


This all changed in December, 1971, when I was alone in my bedroom worshipping Jesus by singing and playing my 1969 Southern Jumbo Gibson guitar, which sadly, I regret trading away.  For some reason, why I'm not sure, I sang my 3 words in tongues.  Then it happened.  The Holy Spirit overwhelmed me with His presence.  I sang in tongues for the next hour.  A flood of new words and paragraphs exploded from my lips, as they have done every day since. 


For the record, my 3 words were not fake.  I neither invented them nor copied them.  All 3 words came to me in prayer meetings where the Holy Spirit was present.   


Paul prayed in the spirit and sang in the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).  In agreement with Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching, I understand Paul to say he prayed and sang in tongues.  I follow his example.  I thank Jesus, the giver of the gifts, that He has given me, not only the gift of tongues, but other spiritual gifts as well.  Every generation of Christians needs the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not just for their sake, but for the sake of Jesus and His kingdom.                        


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