EMBRACE THE POWER IN John 3:8

In John 3:8, Jesus touched on a powerful secret regarding who we are. When this revelation is understood and applied, there is no telling the transformation we will experience. Unfortunately, the main point of the passage is often overlooked. My purpose today is to shed light on John 3:8, pointing out its implication for your life. Hopefully, this will awaken in you the impetus to embrace your true nature, the God-nature. The passage reads,

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” (NKJV).  

It is important to note from the outset that Jesus is not talking about the Holy Spirit. In the passage, he is describing people who are born of the Spirit. Those people, he says, are as the wind. To be “born of the Spirit” means to awake in consciousness to the truth that you are the offspring, not of flesh, but of Spirit. This awakening is the beginning of true spirituality, a point Nicodemus struggled to understand.

Let me now show you what Jesus says about you in John 3:8.

The wind blows where it wishes”: You are as the wind. It is natural for you to blow with great power. It is natural for you to travel great distances effortlessly. You can manifest yourself wherever you want, because, like the wind, you are universally present. Your presence coincides with the presence of God. Time and space cannot limit your presence and activity.

Take, Elisha, for example: “When he [Gehazi] went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered. But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? (2 Kings 5:25-26; cf. Col 2:5). This ability is not unique to Elisha. It is our common nature.

You hear the sound of it”: You are irresistible. You have the aura of God. It is your nature to be influential. You were born to be known and recognized. Your presence is to be felt. You were born to get the attention of the world. This is your true nature.

Cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes”: Where God comes from is where you come from; where God goes is where you go. You are mystery. Your life is a wonder. You are beyond definition. You are the master of your goings and comings. No one can contain you. You are the embodiment of freedom. In essence, you are just like the God who gave birth to you. This is your true nature.

I will conclude here, but this is by no means the end of what Jesus left us in John 3:8. As you pray and meditate, you will receive more insight. I hope this brief reflection has given you more reasons to appreciate the beauty of being born of the Spirit.

Do not be afraid of who you are. Embrace your true nature.

In light & love

Ogoe

Benefits of Praying in Tongues (2)

Another benefit of praying in tongues is that it will help you receive self-edification in the Lord.

Before I elaborate on this benefit, I’ll briefly explain what the Bible says about using the gift of tongues to minister to a congregation as opposed to using tongues to minister to yourself. Then, I’ll discuss the connection between being God’s temple and the necessity of being continuously edified (built up).

Writing on the gifts of the Spirit, Paul said, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Corinthians 14:4, NKJV). Here, Paul speaks of two kinds of edification: a) edification for the church as a whole (which occurs through prophesying to the church, i.e. inspired speaking, teaching or preaching; and b) self-edification (which occurs when you minister to yourself by praying in the spirit).

This means there is a time to edify the whole congregation (when you’re called to minister to the group), and there is a time to edify yourself (when you’re praying by yourself, just between God and you).

Paul is saying if you’re called to minister to the congregation in the form of a message, a song or a prayer, you’re allowed to speak in tongues, but on condition that you or someone else in the congregation can interpret your tongues, so that everyone in the assembly can understand you and be edified.

However, if during the service you’re not ministering to the assembly, you’re allowed to pray (speak) in tongues, keeping it between God and you. In Paul’s own words, “if there is no interpreter, let him [the one speaking in tongues] keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:28). This applies to all other times when you’re engaged in personal prayer. In this series, I’m addressing this latter use of the gift of tongues, i.e. praying in tongues during your own personal prayer time.

To help us understand why praying in tongues is important for the believer, I’ll now point out the link between temple and edification.

In the New Testament, especially from Pentecost onward, the Bible gives us a complete understanding of what constitutes God’s temple (or dwelling place) on earth. Previously, under the Law of Moses, God’s temple was a physical structure made with human hands. First, it was the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 25:1-22) or Tabernacle. Concerning the Tabernacle, God told Moses, “let them [the Israelites] make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). Later, Solomon built a temple which housed the Tabernacle (1 Kings 8:1-6). But, God never wanted to dwell in structures made by human hands.

The Tabernacle was God’s way of (temporarily) accommodating the weakness of the Old Covenant until Jesus came and ushered in a new and authentic way of worshiping God. Therefore, the Old Covenant tabernacle (and temple) was a shadow of the real thing to come (Hebrews 9:1-12). As the same passage states, Jesus brought in a “greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11).

Yet today, some still believe they can build physical structures (“church,”  “tabernacle” or “sanctuary”) in which God would dwell. In some places, a part of the church building is called “sanctuary,” which is treated with extra reverence as though God’s presence over that spot was special. This reveals a serious misunderstanding of the New Covenant. Under the new covenant, God does not dwell in any structure made with human hands. God’s holy presence remains inside the believers, not where the believers choose to gather.

Believers could gather under a tree, in a cave or on an airplane, and God wouldn’t care. Speaking before the Jewish authorities, Stephen declared, “the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). The only temple of God on earth is the individual believer or the group of believers (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). God’s temple is the people, not the building. God’s sanctuary is the people, not a particular spot in a building. Jesus told us to worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), but we’re still trying to tie God to physical structures and locations. Is it any wonder that we seem to lack the power and the fervor of the church described in the Acts of the Apostles?

Being born again, you’ve become the glorious temple of God. Yet, there’s room for you to grow as a temple. God wants you to go from glory to glory, non-stop. A man-made temple is static. It’s meant to remain where it is; it’s not designed to rise and grow, for there’s no life in it. But in your case, you’re a living, breathing sanctuary of God. You are magnificent; you are beauty.

That’s not surprising, for you are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). If the best architects and designers in the world teamed up, they couldn’t fathom the skill, the detail and craftsmanship that went into putting you together as God’s temple. You’re designed to grow upward, ever rising and expanding.

Jesus referred to His own body as a temple (John 2:19-21). He told the Jewish leaders that if they destroyed “this temple” (His body), He would raise it up in three days, and things happened exactly as He had said. The devil thought he could silence Jesus by keeping Him in the grave, but he was wrong. As Peter announced on the Day of Pentecost, “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him [Jesus]” (Acts 2:24).

Just as satan tried to stop Jesus, he’ll try to stop you or limit your positive influence in the world. As Andrew Wommack likes to say, “If you don’t bump into the devil, it means you’re both going in the same direction.”

Attacks come against buildings and man-made temples. Earthquakes, strong winds, storms, missiles, tornadoes and even humans can be a threat to buildings. That’s why several buildings are made to withstand these forces and others are heavily guarded. Recently, fire threatened the famous Notre Dame in Paris. In the history of the Jews, we find instances of threats against their temple. The first temple of Jerusalem was attacked and destroyed around 587 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar. The second temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

What does this mean for you?

As a Christian, you are the temple of God and the pride of heaven. But at the same time, you’re the enemy’s target. Therefore, you need to be aware that just as there are threats against physical temples, there are spiritual forces of darkness seeking to tear you down or limit your upward progress.

So many things in life can come against your success, your peace, your health, your business, your family and your dreams. Every day, the typical news you hear is negative and uninspiring: news that breed fear, panic, hate, frustration, division, despair, grief, doubt and unbelief.

Even your own friends, relatives or co-workers can be a source of negativity; they can turn against you, discourage you and push you down. If you’re not spiritually strong and diligent, these forces can steal your joy and limit your ability to go further in life. You need all the help you can get, and the earlier you appreciated the power of praying in tongues, the better for you.

When he addressed the issue of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul was dealing with the church body as a temple that needs to be in a constant state of upward growth and expansion. In his Letter to the Colossians, he wrote that Christ is “the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (2:19, KJV). God’s temple is designed to increase and be continuously edified.

Similarly, God wants the individual believer to be built up and always increase. That’s why He has made available to all His children the gift of praying in tongues for their self-edification. 

Of all the gifts of the Spirit, speaking (praying) in tongues is the only one that comes with a built-in capability that allows the believer to build himself up without waiting for others to edify him.

We love our families, friends and fellow believers. But the truth is, you can’t (and shouldn’t) always depend on them to be there for you. At some point, you need to be able to motivate yourself, stir up yourself and build up yourself in the Lord. Praying in tongues will help you do that; it has power to lift you up above anything the enemy has sent to slow down your progress. No wonder the devil has created so much controversy and doubt about the gift of tongues to get Christians to back off.

In conclusion, God never intended for you to be stagnant in life. You are God’s glorious temple. Rivers of living water flow from within you (John 7:37-39). Therefore, God wants you to flow and grow with dynamism. Praying in tongues is not a panacea for all of a believer’s challenges. I believe, however, that if every believer prayed in tongues every day, they would go further and higher in life.

God willing, in my next post I’ll talk about another benefit of praying in tongues. Until then, keep rising.

Ogoe

Benefits of Praying in Tongues (1)

This is a follow up to my previous post, “Praying in Tongues: Why Bother?”

Today, I’ll share with you some of the benefits of praying in tongues. My prayer is that you’ll be encouraged to pray in tongues often, preferably daily. And if you don’t speak in tongues yet, my prayer is that you soon will.

Before I go into the benefits of praying in tongues, let me say a word about the nature of prayer.

Praying is an act of worship. Therefore, when you’re at prayer, you’re worshiping; and you address your prayer to whoever you deem to be your God, in a Christian’s case the God of Jesus Christ. All prayer is worship, but not all worship is prayer.

Prayer is intended by God to be an activity of your spirit.

Knowing the relationship between prayer, worship and the spirit, Jesus said, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24, NKJV). This means there are worshipers and there are true worshipers. God isn’t looking for worshipers; there’s plenty of them already. He’s looking, rather, for true worshipers.

The truth is in the spirit realm, and those who interact with God based on spirit (invisible) realities are true worshipers. True worshipers don’t base their reality (or worship life) on what can be experienced with the natural senses: location, space, time, sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, etc.

God is spirit; so are you. Therefore, He’d rather you pray to Him in the spirit. Fortunately, praying in tongues is praying in the spirit. As Paul says, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays . . .” (1 Corinthians 14:14). You’re at your best when your spirit is praying, because at that point you are a spirit praying in the spirit to a Spirit (God).

That said, here are some benefits of praying in tongues:

First of all, praying in tongues expands your capacity to pray. By “capacity” I mean two things: (a) the range of issues you can cover in prayer and (b) endurance, i.e. how long you can (joyfully) sustain yourself in prayer without becoming exhausted. Natural languages (Twi, English, Spanish, German, etc.) have a limited range of vocabulary, expression and nuance. No matter how fluent you are in a language, you’ll face limitations.

When you pray in a natural language, the limitations become even more evident, especially if you’re praying spontaneously. As someone once told me, there’s only so many verbs, nouns and adjectives available for you to use in prayer. Try praying in a natural language continuously and spontaneously (no interruption) for just five minutes. Invariably, your mind begins to search for the right words, the right grammar and punctuation, and how to stay coherent.

Prayer becomes a chore when it feels like you’re brainstorming to present an essay or a speech. Because of the limitations of natural language, many settle for a few words and hastily conclude their prayer with “Amen!’ (although they could go further). Others rely on predetermined, ‘canned’ or memorized prayers and repeat them over and over.

The good news is, when you pray in tongues, you don’t have to deal with these limitations. Because your spirit prays directly to God using spirit language, you don’t have to worry about what to say or how to say it. Once your spirit takes over, your natural mind (the flesh) gets out of the way. At this point, the Holy Spirit supplies the utterance and inspiration (Acts 2:4), and your spirit speaks through your voice. Because your spirit is praying, you can be sure that you’re covering a lot of issues your (limited) natural language can’t cover.

Additionally, when your spirit prays, you get refreshed and don’t get exhausted easily. Therefore, you can spend longer periods with God. Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve been praying for hours, because it feels like you’ve been praying for only a few minutes. That’s why praying in tongues is such a powerful tool.

When you pray with your natural language, you rely heavily on your natural mind to support you by looking for what to say (not directly related, but see Matthew 10:19-20). That process can wear you down, and that’s why many can’t pray spontaneously beyond a few minutes.

But when you pray in tongues, you put your natural mind on stand-by mode as you switch over to spirit mode. Because it’s on stand-by, your mind doesn’t have to work hard to supply words and meaning and coherence; instead, it rests while your spirit does the work. The only part of you that’s involved in this process is your voice, which serves as a channel for your spirit to speak.

God gave us the gift of praying in tongues to support our prayer life, because He knows the limitations of the flesh. The night before His death, Jesus “came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41).

Your natural mind is part of your flesh; it has limitations. There’s only so much it can do for you in prayer. This is why when you rely on it, you soon get tired (even bored), and you can’t wait for the prayer to be over so you can go do something more exciting. If you want to go far in prayer, you need to fly on the wings of your spirit, and the gift of tongues is given to help you do that.

To conclude this section, let me share with you my own experience of limitations in prayer before I received the gift of tongues.

My weakness in prayer got exposed through contact with the Catholic Charismatics. Although I disliked the Charismatics and wished the Lord would drive them out of the Catholic Church (see my post entitled “Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony”), there were a few (positive) things about them I couldn’t deny. They seemed to have a deep longing for prayer (spontaneous prayer, of course). When they prayed, they looked so energized; they could go on for so long, but they looked as fresh as ever. Above all, they seemed to enjoy prayer in a way that I didn’t see in people outside their group. That made me curious.

I had the experience, a few times, of being present at their prayer meetings. The one leading the prayer would announce a prayer topic and invite them to pray. Instantly, everyone would start to pray out loud and spontaneously. From what I observed, they made prayer look easy and exhilarating. They could pray uninterruptedly for several minutes.

Obviously, I would pray along. But I noticed that I got stuck after about two minutes. I would run out of words, and there was nothing more I could say. These people, however, went on and on as if they were possessed. At times, I’d look around to my left and right; everyone was on fire praying while I had long stopped. I’d quietly recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary. That was the only way I could keep up with them.

I always wondered, “What do these people have in them that I don’t have? Why can they endure so long in prayer, be so enthusiastic and not feel tired? Why do I get stuck but they keep going strong?” Later, when the Holy Spirit filled me and gave me the ability to speak in tongues, I understood why. From that point, I could pray more freely (and for long) without feeling stuck. Even today, I feel so grateful for the gift of tongues.

God willing, in my next post I’ll talk about another benefit of praying in tongues. In the meantime, if you have the gift of tongues, please pray in tongues daily. If you’re yet to speak in tongues, I encourage you to ask the Father for it (Luke 11:13) and expect to pray in tongues. If you need someone to support you, reach out to a friend who already speaks in tongues.

Daddy God loves you!

Ogoe

Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 4)

At this point, I had no more prejudice against the Charismatics. I repented in my heart of the things I held against them. I realized I had been acting in ignorance and pride. I felt a deep thirst for the Holy Spirit. I yearned to know Him more, so I maintained contact with the Charismatic Renewal both in the seminary and at my local church in Kumasi. Yet, I didn’t share my story with anyone. Years later, I told a couple of friends but this is the first time I’m testifying publicly.

Then came what I thought was a setback. On April 1, 2003, I received word from a fellow seminarian (from the Gambia) that the Rector, Rev. Fr. Soadwa, wanted to see me. I thought he was trying to pull a prank on me because it was April Fool’s Day, so I disregarded his message. But when he insisted, I went to see the Rector on April 2.

Fr. Soadwa told me that my Bishop (Most Rev. Peter K. Sarpong) had selected me to go to Rome to continue my seminary education (in Theology). I received the news with mixed feelings. Naturally, I felt honored and grateful to be selected. However, I wasn’t as excited as most people would expect. Some might find this statement shocking because studying in Rome (or abroad in general) is the dream of many a seminarian in Ghana.

I accepted the news and prepared to leave for Rome out of obedience to my Bishop. If I had my own way, I would have preferred to stay in Ghana (I felt the same way when in 2011, my new Bishop, Most Rev. Thomas K. Mensah, told me to leave for the USA for further studies. I’ll share details about this another time).

But here’s why I felt apprehensive about leaving for Rome.

I had just tasted the sweetness and power of the Holy Spirit. Being in the company of the Charismatics made me so happy. I was growing in spontaneous prayer, in understanding, in knowledge of God’s Word (which was rare outside the Charismatic Renewal) and in fellowship with like-minded people. I was still yearning to speak in tongues and I knew the Holy Spirit was stirring up something big in me. I didn’t want to lose it or have anything interfere with my progress. And I feared that if I went to Rome that would be the end of my dream of growing in the Spirit’s anointing.

Although I had never been to Rome, the little I knew convinced me that the environment wasn’t conducive to the kind of spiritual growth I wanted. I recall, for example, what one priest told me before I left for Rome. His exact words to me were, “If you go to Rome with little faith, you will come back with no faith at all.” Moreover, we knew priests who had gone abroad and upon their return, they seemed to have lost their initial spiritual fervor. All of this made me feel concerned. At one point, I even thought it was the devil who orchestrated my going to Rome because he wanted to thwart my spiritual progress.

For my trip to Rome, I gathered as many materials on the Holy Spirit as I could find (Gospel song CDs and books). One of my favorite Holy Spirit songs was “Ngosra no nti” (meaning “Because of the anointing”) by Dorcas Appiah, a Ghanaian Gospel musician. Tears filled my eyes whenever I played the song and I felt energized. Some of the books I read at this time were, Good Morning, Holy Spirit and Welcome, Holy Spirit, both by Benny Hinn. I also read a book on the Holy Spirit by Mike Murdock and some materials about the life and ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman. 

At the seminary in Rome I noticed something unusual happening to me. Our morning routine began with communal Morning Prayer (from the Breviary), followed by about thirty minutes of individual meditation and then the Eucharist. Nearly every morning during meditation time, I felt a tingling sensation on my tongue, on my lips and around my jaws. It didn’t last for the entire meditation time; it was intermittent. It felt as if someone tapped me with a little bit of electricity and then disappeared. I didn’t understand what it was. All I know is, it made me excited and joyful.

At the same time, I felt that something was rising within me; it had reached my chest area and wanted to flow out through my mouth. The closest example I can liken to this experience is the feeling of wanting to throw up, except what I felt wasn’t food or drink.

I lived with this feeling and the tingling sensation for a few months. I knew the Holy Spirit wanted to release something within me. I wanted this to happen so badly I wrote an email to one Rev. Fr. Atta-Nsiah, a priest from Ghana who at that time was also studying in Rome. I knew him to be a very spiritual priest and he was kind to me. So, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind praying over me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, he was out of town and couldn’t respond.

But God’s plan for me remained intact. The day for me to speak in tongues finally came. This was early 2004.

I left the seminary one sunny afternoon and I was headed in the direction of the Roman Forum (We lived in Trastevere). I don’t recall what I was going to do; it was a casual day. I was alone, walking on one of the bridges over the Tiber river.

Suddenly, my jaws shook for about two seconds and I spoke out loud for another two or three seconds. I felt like whatever had been building up in me for months just rushed out and my tongue was loosed to speak. In the middle of this experience I caught myself and said, “Wait, what did I just say? I just spoke but it wasn’t English or Italian or my mother tongue.” Then, I heard a gentle voice within me saying, “You just spoke in tongues.” I felt so free and my spiritual life from that point accelerated in ways I didn’t imagine. Since that time, speaking in tongues has played a major role in my prayer life and my ministry to people.

In conclusion, I went from speaking against tongues to speaking in tongues. I hope my story encourages you and stirs up your faith in a positive way. In the coming days, I hope to share with you some of the benefits of speaking (praying) in tongues and why it is in your best interest to be open to this gift and to use it every day.

God richly bless you.

Ogoe

Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 3)

It would take several months before I spoke in tongues. However, in the days and weeks following the Life in the Spirit Seminar, I noticed unusual things happen to me.

First, I never wanted to have anything to do with the praise and worship songs of the Charismatics. But I started noticing a change. When I heard the sound of worship songs, I felt drawn to it. Those songs delighted my spirit. I couldn’t explain why; it just happened.

Second, I caught myself one day raising my arms to heaven when I worshiped. Up to that point, you couldn’t get me to raise my hands. Yet, here I was raising my hands in worship. I don’t recall anyone telling me to raise my hands. For some of you these details might sound trivial, but for me it was a big deal.

Third, I felt light and free and joyful. I couldn’t explain it; I just experienced it. Fourth, I noticed that I was more assured of God’s presence in my life. I felt God was close to me and I didn’t need anything. I felt drawn to Jesus in a new way. For the first time, I noticed that I didn’t need the Virgin Mary (or the saints) and sacramentals as much as I previously thought. Again, no one coached me. I just felt different inside me.

Fifth, I became bold, confident and spontaneous in prayer. When I joined the Charismatics, I learned about the spiritual authority of the believer and how to use it. For the first time in my life, when I discerned demonic activity, I knew what to do or say and I felt bold about it.

 Let me share an example with you.

One day in the seminary, a classmate of mine was sick so I visited him to see how he was doing. He looked pale and weak. I sat next to him on his bed while we talked. He, too, was seated. Suddenly, his eyes rolled and became white and he bent backwards, looking unconscious and lifeless. In that very moment, I looked at him and spoke the following words, “I rebuke you, death!” As soon as I spoke those words, he sat up again as if I had woken him from a dream. His eyes became normal again and we continued our conversation.

The interesting thing is, he didn’t realize what had just happened. And I felt at that time that it wasn’t necessary, either, for me to tell him.

My point is, if I had faced this situation in my earlier life, I would have been scared or scrambled to recite some of the traditional prayers I had memorized (e.g. the “Hail Mary” or “Prayer to St. Michael”). But this time, I wasn’t moved a bit by what was happening in front of me. I knew by spontaneous discernment which spirit was trying to harm my friend (the spirit of death). I took authority, spoke directly to death and rebuked it to lose its grip on my friend. And it obeyed.

The next chapter of how I came to speak in tongues takes place in Rome, Italy. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

Until then, may the rivers of living water in you refresh you and meet every need in your life. Amen.

Ogoe