Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 2)

When the time came, I approached the leadership of the Charismatic Renewal on campus and expressed my desire to join them. I was one of a few seminarians who were joining the group for the first time. We were told that our initiation into the group involved participating in the Life in the Spirit Seminar. For about three weeks we all attended special prayer meetings. The main speaker was a lay person from one of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Accra. He spoke to us at length from the Bible. There was singing, praying and dancing.

Given my years of prejudice against the Charismatics, being part of this process felt awkward. However, I participated with an open mind.

The leaders told us that the Life in the Spirit Seminar would conclude with the “praying over.” This terminology was new to me. According to them, during the praying over, they would pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon us in power and we would receive spiritual gifts, including – but not limited to – the gifts of speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing. In the meantime, I felt excitement and expectation grow in me. I had many questions, though, because this was all new to me.

The most important question I had was about speaking in tongues. When and how were we supposed to speak in tongues? How did it work?

Fortunately, I knew two seminarian friends, Angelo and Eric, who were Charismatics. I asked them to explain to me what they knew about the gift of tongues. They shared their own experience with tongues and the circumstances under which they first spoke in tongues. They were honest with me. They said they couldn’t tell me when or how I would speak in tongues, but they just knew I would.

Angelo explained to me that I needed only two things: desire and expectation. Then, they pointed me to 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts . . .” (NKJV). It was the first time my attention was drawn to this Scripture. If I kept desiring and expecting, he said, I would speak in tongues at a time and place of God’s choosing. I took his advice.

Then came the day of the praying over. This was around early 2002. One of the priests at the seminary, Fr. Arthur, presided. It was a simple ceremony. He had a book to guide him. At the conclusion of the celebration, he invited the initiands to come forward. He and the other leaders of the group stood around us with outstretched arms, invoking the Holy Spirit to come upon us. They didn’t lay hands on us; nor did anyone touch us or instruct us to do anything. I didn’t notice any perceptible change in me. More importantly, I didn’t speak in tongues; not yet.

What I do recall is that I had yielded to the Spirit and was open to receive whatever gifts He wanted to give me. I recall, too, that I never stopped desiring and expecting His gifts  to manifest in my life. Soon I began to notice unusual things happen in my life.

To be continued in my next post . . .

Until then, be led by the Spirit.

Ogoe

Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 1)

Speaking (praying) in tongues is one of the most contentious issues among Christians. What follows is my testimony of how I went from hating tongues to speaking in tongues.

I was baptized a Roman Catholic when I was two months and I remained a Catholic until March of 2015. With the exception of one or two people, everyone in my immediate family was a practicing Catholic. My aunt, Agnes, was the staunchest of them all. This was the woman who adopted me and raised me from when I was seven. She was well versed in Catholic doctrine and we knew her to be a relentless defender of Catholic orthodoxy. I followed her footsteps.

With delight I read the several Catholic books, magazines and tracts Agnes brought home. By the age of fifteen, I had a strong foundation in Catholic history, doctrine and apologetics.

While I enjoyed my growth in Catholicism, there was a phenomenon in my beloved parish which disturbed my soul. It was the Charismatic Renewal. I despised them (I don’t think they knew it). Within me, I believed they were from the devil, sent to infiltrate the Catholic faith and corrupt it with Protestant/Pentecostal practices. I observed them carefully and noticed that they didn’t care about the things that were dear to a true Catholic: devotion to Mary,  the Rosary, Confession, the Mass and the Pope, to name a few.

I disliked the Charismatics for their obsession with the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Not once did I find them pray a ‘Catholic prayer’ at their prayer meetings. They always prayed spontaneously. They sang and danced to Protestant/Pentecostal songs. I hated their practice of praying in tongues and delivering people from evil spirits. I believed all of that was of the devil. At best, it wasn’t a Catholic thing to do, and any religious practice that wasn’t Catholic was, in my opinion, not worth imitating. Every chance I got I debated the Charismatics with one goal in mind: to prove them wrong and win them over to the true spirit of Catholicism.

But God was about to open my eyes. I didn’t see it coming; but it did happen. From my childhood years, I wanted to be a Catholic priest. The opportunity came in 2000 when I entered the seminary (St. Paul’s Catholic Seminary, Accra, Ghana). I thought it was a ‘safe place.’ But, lo and behold, the Charismatic Renewal was in the seminary, too! Second year seminarians were required to join at least one of the on-campus societies. Initially, I joined the Pax Romana group. A few months later, I joined the Charismatic Renewal also (sounds unbelievable!).

Here is how it happened.

One day, I visited a friend of mine in the seminary. On his desk, there was a book whose title drew my attention: Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt, a former Catholic priest. I borrowed the book and read it. In the book, MacNutt often referred to the anointing of the Holy Spirit (baptism of the Holy Spirit) and how it equips people with the power of God. After this, I found another book in the seminary library which talked about how some Catholic saints practiced exorcisms in ancient times. The content of these two books made me curious.

Moreover, I knew that the Charismatic Renewal was present in nearly every parish. If I was going to be a priest, I needed to understand the beliefs and inner workings of the Charismatic Renewal. I knew priests who had bitter confrontations with the Charismatics and who harbored deep disliking for the group. I didn’t want to be in that situation. Therefore, I decided I would join the group on campus. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything “Charismatic” was so foreign to me. However, I expected to get to know them enough to be able (at least) to live with them in peace.

To be continued in my next post. 

Stay joyful,

Ogoe

Born of the Spirit: Blowing As the Wind

Daily Devotional | Day 321

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NKJV).

Jesus had an important conversation with Nicodemus at the beginning of John chapter 3. The latter had questions for Him. Nicodemus probably didn’t anticipate that the conversation would take the course it did. When Jesus spoke about the born again life, he felt lost. The message about the new birth sounded too profound or too good to be true. Nevertheless, Jesus said what He needed to say. His teaching in this passage contains deep insights about the life of a believer.

One such insight is what we read in today’s opening Scripture. It’s about being born of the Spirit and blowing as the wind. Before we delve into the passage, let’s note that Jesus uses the expressions “born again” and “born of the Spirit” interchangeably (3:3, 5, 6, 7).

In 3:8, Jesus is describing the life of a person born of the Spirit. He does so by drawing an analogy between the characteristics of the wind and the characteristics of one born of the Spirit. That Jesus compares us with the wind makes one’s head spin. He says, “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.” Then He adds, “So is everyone born of the Spirit.”

Observe carefully what is happening here. Jesus is pointing us to something profound. He is comparing us with the wind. He is giving us a clue about what we arewhat we have and what we can do. What Jesus is saying is this: To understand your born again life and your potential, study the wind. If you understand how the wind works, then you will understand how you too can operate.

Interestingly, the words “spirit” and “wind” are translated by one Greek word, pneuma. What you discover about the wind will help you discover yourself, because you and the wind share common characteristics. This is Jesus’ point, and every believer needs to pay attention. Jesus is a great Teacher. To help us grasp what we are and what we can do in the Spirit, He is pointing us to the wind. As we contemplate the wind, we will comprehend who we are. With this in mind, let’s look at a few characteristics of the wind.

You can’t contain, imprison or stop the wind. It moves freely. It can blow where it pleases and change direction at will. It can travel nearly everywhere at different speeds. It can be unpredictable. Wind is a powerful force of nature. At full strength, nothing can stand in its path. Wind is energy. Wind is power. After describing the wind, Jesus declares, “So is everyone born of the Spirit.”

This means you are as the wind. Therefore, you are unstoppable. You are captive to no one but the Father. You can be where you need to be in spirit (2 Corinthians 5:3-4; 2 Kings 5:25-26). You are supernatural energy in motion. No enemy or obstacle can stand in your path when you’re blowing. You are a mystery to your enemies. They feel your influence but they know not your point of origin or your destination. You not only have power, you are power.

This is who Jesus says you are. It is what He says you can do. Don’t ask the Holy Spirit to blow. He has already done that. Don’t ask the Holy Spirit to move. He has already moved. It’s your turn to move and blow. Next time the wind is blowing, take that as a friendly reminder from Jesus about what He says you are. You are as the wind. Blow now.

For further studyActs 2:1-21 and Ephesians 3:14-21

Knowing Is the Key to Possessing (Pt 4)

Daily Devotion | Day 316

“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10, NKJV).

The mysteries of God are the inheritance of His children. In former times, these mysteries were hidden. But now they are revealed. And it is by the Holy Spirit that they are revealed to us (Ephesians 3:1-6). As Paul notes in our opening Scripture, these mysteries are about “things God has prepared for those who love Him.” They are things which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man.” The Father kept these wonderful plans close to His chest. But at the appointed time, He unveiled the plans to His apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit. This is the point Paul is making.

The Spirit is able to search the depths of the Father’s heart. It is with this ability that He drew out the mysteries of our inheritance in Christ and declared them to the apostles (and prophets). The Spirit’s work in the Church is to oversee the faithful transmission of this revealed knowledge from one generation of Christians to another until the return of Christ. He does so by leading every believer to the truth, especially through the ministry of those appointed to shepherd the flock of Christ (Acts 20:27-28). This last point will be the focus of our concluding message on “Knowing Is the Key to Possessing.”

The Father never does (or says) something except by His Spirit. This ensures that all His deeds are mighty and effective. His prophets of old were effective communicators of His will because they ministered by the Holy Spirit at work in them (1 Peter 1:10-11). As Son of God and Messiah, Jesus did the same thing. He effectively and accurately communicated the Father’s will because He taught by the Spirit that was in Him (Acts 1:2).

The apostles were no different. Paul writes, for example, “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Peter confirms what Paul said. Concerning our inheritance in Christ, he spoke of “the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).

Notice the Holy Spirit’s role in ensuring that those who preach do so according to His leading. This is crucial because what we are in Christ is a profound supernatural reality. And our inheritance in Him is so vast and marvelous that even angels desire to look into what we have. Therefore, to bring this knowledge home to Christians, one must be in tune with the Spirit. 

To teach others by the Spirit, you must first be taught by the Spirit. In other words, to effectively communicate God’s will to His children, you must first be a student of the Spirit. Otherwise, you risk delivering a superficial message. Superficial messages will keep the flock of God ignorant, anemic and frail. And if they remain ignorant, they risk despising their inheritance or losing it altogether.

To sum up:

Knowing is the key to possessing. As God’s people, we have a right to understand our inheritance in Christ and be able to appropriate what is rightfully ours. For this to happen, the Holy Spirit’s revelatory role is indispensable. As we welcome the Spirit, we welcome His insights. And as we welcome His insights, we welcome the ability to take possession of (and enjoy) the unsearchable riches of Christ. Therefore, let us stay enlightened by the Spirit. Amen.

For further studyLuke 15:11-32

Knowing Is the Key to Possessing (Pt 3)

Daily Devotion | Day 315

“In whom [Christ] also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:14, NKJV).

[NB: I have deliberately omitted the first part of Ephesians 1:14, so we can focus on the part that is most relevant to the current study].

According to today’s Scripture, when we believed in Christ, God sealed us with His “Holy Spirit of promise.” Paul tells us the significance of being sealed with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, he writes, is “the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Here, Paul is employing the language of business transaction to explain what God has done for us.

Instead of the word “guarantee,” a better translation of the Greek would be “earnest,” “pledge” or “down payment” – understood in terms of a business agreement. This means the giving of God’s Spirit is His way of assuring us that He will make good on all His promises to us. In other words, everything Jesus has purchased for us (as an inheritance) will be delivered according to plan. Therefore, to have the Holy Spirit means to have in you the divine assurance that you are rightful heir to the Father’s estate. What belongs to the Father is now yours to possess (Galatians 4:6-7).

By implication, if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, it means God is not bound to give you His estate because He has made no such commitment to you. The New Covenant is established in the blood of Jesus (Luke 22:20). And the giving of the Holy Spirit is the ‘receipt,’ testifying that the transaction has been completed, and consequently, all those who subscribe to the covenant will inherit the blessings dictated by the terms of the covenant. This brings us to the main point of the current study, which is: knowing is the key to possessing, and  in this process the Holy Spirit plays an indispensable role.

One of the primary duties of the Holy Spirit is to equip us with divine understanding. He, the Spirit, is the pledge of our inheritance in Christ. He also is the same Person whose work is to teach us about our inheritance. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would teach us all things (John 14:26). “All things” includes our inheritance in Christ. The Spirit knows well that without knowledge, we risk despising our inheritance. And when we despise our inheritance, we risk losing it. An example which comes to mind is Esau. He despised his inheritance (birthright) because he did not know the value of what he had. Therefore, he traded it for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:34). His ignorance cost him his inheritance.

Lest anyone suppose that what happened to Esau cannot happen to Christians, the Letter to the Hebrews cites Esau’s example as a warning to us (12:24). If you don’t know who you are in Christ and what you have in Him, you can despise your inheritance and possibly lose it (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Aware of this, Paul prayed that the Father would open the eyes of our hearts, that we might know “what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:15-19).

Our Father in heaven has limitless power and riches. And all of that is ours in Christ. But to benefit from it, it is important that we are fully aware that it is ours. What we have in our churches today is not a lack of power or riches. What we have is a lack of knowledge. Our best chance for revival would be a revival of knowledge.

God willing, we will wrap up this teaching tomorrow. Until then, stay blessed. Amen.

For further studyGenesis 25:29-34 and Hebrews 9:11-15