Showing posts with label #Supernatural. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Supernatural. Show all posts

The prayer of faith will raise him up.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 March

James 5.15.

I once had a classmate who had to use a wheelchair. I don’t know all the details as to why he was in that chair—whether his legs didn’t work, or he couldn’t stay upright. Doesn’t matter. The point is he was in that chair… and it was really hard to talk about Jesus with him, ’cause he was really annoyed with Christians.

Y’see, those of us who believe God still cures people, tried to get God to cure him. “Can I pray for you?” is how it usually starts—although too often they never bothered to ask, and just started praying. And touched his legs uninvited. And exhibited other demonstrative, uncomfortable behaviors; uncomfortable for him, though they certainly didn’t hold back.

He was still in that chair though. The prayers didn’t work.

Of course when things don’t turn out the way we expect, people wanna know why, and some of these wannabe faith-healers claimed to know why: He lacked faith. He didn’t believe God would heal him. He was the problem. Blame the victim.

You can kinda see why he was really annoyed with Christians. I get annoyed by such Christians. They make my job harder. Now I gotta be twice as gracious, twice as nice, just to make up for their dick moves. (And back at this point in my life I wasn’t all that nice.)

“Which goes to show these guys don’t know their bible,” I told my classmate, “because the bible actually says it’s their fault you weren’t healed.”

“How’s that now?” he said. I didn’t have a bible on me, so I loosely told him this story. One day Jesus walks in on a debate his students are having with some scribes, Mk 9.14 and wants to know what’s up. I’ll continue with Matthew’s version of events.

Mark 9.17-19 NLT
14 At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”
17 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.
19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”
20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

“The boy didn’t need to have faith,” I pointed out; “I don’t know if he had any idea what was going on; if he was in any position to even have faith. His faith didn’t matter. Your faith didn’t matter. The faith-healer’s faith is what matters, and Jesus’s disciples didn’t have it. So that’s why nothing happened.”

“So those people praying for me are the problem,” he said. “Well I already knew that.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but now you know why. And the next time they wanna blame you for lacking faith, remind ’em of when Jesus raised people from the dead, and ask them how much faith those dead people needed to have.”

Now yeah, there are gonna be Christians who insist the victims do need to have faith before God can heal them; that even Jesus himself can be hindered when people refuse to have it. Mk 6.5, Mt 13.58 I agree people’s faithlessness can get in the way… but I still think the burden is 99.9999 percent on the faith-healer. We mustn’t offer to cure the sick and unwell and infirm, unless we’ve first asked the Holy Spirit, and he’s told us to pray for them. If we’re stepping out ahead of the Spirit, we have no guarantee he’s gonna do a thing. He might! And he might not.

Christians who don’t understand this, regularly have the bad habit of blaming the victim—and quoting today’s out-of-context verse to defend themselves. Not that the verse says what they claim it does. I’ll switch to the KJV to quote it, since that’s the version Christians quote most:

James 5.15 KJV
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

“The prayer of faith shall save the sick,” and their argument is that if the prayer doesn’t save the sick person, it’s because somebody lacked faith. It’s kinda obvious from the text that James means the prayer has to be of faith; the person doing the praying has to have faith; it’s not the sick person!

But wannabe faith healers are gonna insist they totally do have faith, so they can’t be to blame. So it’s gotta be someone else. The sick person, likely.

The spiritual gifts test.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 November

Most Christians never bother to ask, “What are spiritual gifts?” We just presume we know, and not our heads knowingly, as if we’re totally familiar with the concept. But ask your average Christian just what these spiritual gifts are, and they’ll stammer out a few odd answers. “Um… kindness? Friendliness? Encouragement?”

No, that’s fruit. Try again.

“Er… generosity? Helpfulness? Ooh, discernment!”

Still fruit, but the “discernment” answer is on the right track, even though there’s a totally non-spiritual form of discernment which detectives regularly use. And clever people. And con artists, unfortunately.

Well, I’ll stop leaving you in suspense. Spiritual gifts aren’t talents which make us more “spiritual” (which, to many Christians, means “churchy”). They’re special abilities the Holy Spirit gives us. Supernatural special abilities. Like these.

1 Corinthians 12.7-11 KJV
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

How do we know we have these special abilities? Duh; we do them. The Spirit gives us the power to do ’em. If the Spirit has empowered me with gifts of healing, I heal. There’s no question as to where my gift lies; it’s kinda obvious. I’m not sitting around wondering, “What’s my spiritual gift?”—the previously-unwell people all around me, who were cured when I prayed for them, will universally respond, “Duh, it’s healing. What, you think it’s musical theater?”

So why are there so many Christians who aren’t sure what their spiritual gifts are? Bluntly it’s because they’re not doing anything. They don’t minister. They receive and don’t give back. Sometimes because they’re immature, and can’t imagine they’re ready to give back. Too often it’s because they’re holding out for one particular spiritual gift, and until they get that one, they’re not doing anything; they’re like the bratty child on Christmas morning who didn’t the pony she asked for, so she’s throwing out all her other presents, no matter how good or valuable or generous they are.

But for all those Christians who don’t do anything, and would really like to know what they should be doing, Christians have created written aptitude tests.

No I’m not kidding. And you probably know I’m not kidding, because you’ve seen one of these tests. Sometimes your pastors or ministry leaders hand ’em out, and everybody takes one, and finds out where their gifts are. Because why find out by doing?—take a test!

Really, it’s a ludicrous idea, but it’s so commonplace Christians don’t find it ludicrous anymore. That’s a whole other problem, which I won’t go into today.

Tongues build up the individual.

by K.W. Leslie, 01 October

1 Corinthians 14.1-4.

Most of the time when Christians quote this particular passage about speaking in tongues, they quote verse 4 thisaway.

1 Corinthians 14.4 NIV
Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.

Yeah, tongues are okay, but. But but but.

Except the word but isn’t in the original text of this verse. The word which gets translated but in nearly every English-language bible, is δέ/de. It’s a conjunction which indicates the speaker just started a new sentence, and the new sentence is logically connected to the old sentence. You can, as bibles do most of the time, just leave it untranslated. Or, if you really, really wanna connect it to the previous sentence ’cause they fit together just so well, a semicolon will work.

Thing is, whenever translators think there’s a contrast between the two sentences, they can’t just translate de as a new sentence, a semicolon, or even “and.” They gotta turn it into a “but.”

So instead of writing John 1.17 as it it should be,

John 1.17 NIV
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

they gotta insert a “but” between those sentences,

John 1.17 NLT
For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.

and imply there’s a conflict between law, and grace and truth, where really there’s no such thing.

But the reason they gotta imply such a thing, has nothing to do with the text. It has to do with their pre-existing beliefs. If you’re dispensationalist, and think in the Old Testament times God saved people through his Law, but nowadays saves people through his grace, you’re gonna want that “but” in there, proving your point. You’re not gonna want people to realize God chose Abraham by his grace, rescued the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery by his grace, enriched their nation by his grace, sent them prophets to lead them aright by his grace, inspired the writing of the Old Testament by his grace, and so forth. You’re gonna want to minimize that Old Testament grace (and hide its occurrences in the Old Testament by translating it “favor”) as much as you can.

Then you’re gonna push grace, and encourage people to reject law. Because that’s what people tend to do with contrasts. They’re not presented as “There’s A, and there’s B, and they’re different,” but as “People do A, but they should do B.” Hence dispensationalists insist people do Law, but they should do grace. Not, as Jesus teaches, that we should do both.

So back to 1 Corinthians 14. Paul and Sosthenes did wanna present a contrast between tongues and prophecy. But again, it’s not so people would reject tongues and only do prophecy. It’s so people would recognize only one of the two activities is appropriate for church gatherings. Only one of the two is a group activity. Wanna guess which one?

1 Corinthians 14.1-4 KWL
1 Pursue love. Be zealous for the supernatural.
Most of all so you can prophesy:
2 Tongues-speakers speak to God, not people.
Nobody else understands them, and they speak secrets to the Spirit.
3 Prophesiers speak to people: They build up, help out, and advise.
4 Tongues-speakers build up themselves. Prophesiers build up a church.

Forbidding tongues.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 September

Certain Christians are terrified of tongues. Afraid of other people speaking tongues, afraid of themselves speaking tongues, afraid of the very idea. For all sorts of reasons, but most of of the time it’s one of these four:

  • They think it’s devilish, and are afraid of evil spirits.
  • They think it’s madness, and are afraid of crazy people.
  • They think tongues-speakers are out of control, and don’t wanna surrender or lose control of themselves… nor of course be around out-of-control people.
  • They realize it’s empowered by the Holy Spirit… and of all people, they’re afraid of him.

All of them are wrong ideas and false views, and people need to be taught otherwise. But whenever someone starts speaking in tongues around them, their fight-or-flight instinct gets triggered, and at that point there’s no teaching them anything. They’re having a panic attack, or they’re getting out of the building as fast as they can, or they’re furious that someone’s put them in that uncomfortable situation.

So, reason the leaders of various churches, best to just hide or silence the tongues.

Now, those of us who do speak in tongues, tend to get our dander up at the idea. Hey, didn’t the apostles forbid this kind of behavior?

1 Corinthians 14.39 KJV
Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

But what I’ve found are two types of churches: The cessationist sort which bans ’em outright, and the soft continuationist sort which believes miracles are still for today, but what they’re really banning are loud tongues. Speak in tongues all you please, but just as most prayers are better off done in private, so are tongues.

Because too often, when they get a tongues-speaker in their congregation, they get yet another immature Christian who can’t keep the volume down. Who insists they have every right to make noise. After all, Holy Spirit! And since God’s enabling their tongues, how dare anyone stifle them? How dare anyone declare how and when and where to show off exercise their particular gift of the Spirit? How dare these churches quench the Spirit. Betcha they blaspheme the Spirit too. Et cetera, ad nauseam.

I told a friend I was gonna write about Christians who forbid tongues, and this was largely his attitude too. He “got his angry up,” as they call it in the Bible Belt. Wants me to tear those Spirit-quenchers a new one. Nope. I’m with them. Did we forget the verse which immediately follows the “don’t-stop-tongues” one?

1 Corinthians 14.40 KJV
Let all things be done decently and in order.

Ah there it is.

You know how people are: We never give one another the benefit of the doubt. We just assume they’re sticking it to us. ’Cause human depravity and all that. But let’s not. Let’s practice a little basic discernment and find out why they “forbid tongues,” if that’s really what they’re doing. Have they absolutely forbidden prayer in tongues, both inside and outside the church building, in every single form? Or do they have no problem with tongues; they’re just exercising their prerogative to quiet noisy people? Unless they’re dark Christians who fear our tongues are calling down demons, you’ll find it’s typically the second reason.

Praying too loud—in tongues.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 September

Likely you know what Jesus taught about showing off when we pray. If you need a reminder, here ya go.

Matthew 6.5-6 KJV
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Betcha you’ve never heard this teaching applied to speaking in tongues.

Because when you’re in one of those churches which don’t stifle tongues, you’re gonna notice whenever there’s a prayer group, those who pray in tongues tend to do so at a very audible level. Sometimes at the volume of an ordinary speaking voice. Often even louder.

If they were praying in English, would this be appropriate behavior? Only if they were leading the group, or praying on behalf of the whole group. Is that what’s happening? Nah; they’re praying individually. And too loud. Jesus’s teaching about hypocrites showing off would immediately come to mind. We’d consider it disruptive. Someone would take that person aside and have a private little corrective chat with ’em. And if they kept it up regardless, they’d be asked to leave the room, if not the group.

So… why do tongues get a free pass to be noisy?

Because, Christians shrug, it’s tongues! It’s a powerful prayer, supernaturally enabled by the Holy Spirit. He’s making us able to pray in the Spirit’s power, for all the stuff the Spirit particularly wants. For that reason, shouldn’t it take priority over everything else in the room?

Maybe so, maybe not. It’s not the issue, actually.

The issue is volume. Are we meant to outshout everyone else when we pray? No. Are we meant to interrupt others when we pray? No. Are we meant to be noisy or disruptive when we pray? No. And if it’s true of prayer, it's just as true of prayer in tongues. We don’t get a free pass to be fleshly just because the Spirit gave us the power to pray tongues. In fact it’s all the more reason to not behave this way: Making noise means we’re kinda nullifying any of the building up 1Co 14.4 which the tongues are meant to do for us.

1 Corinthians 13.1 KJV
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

Not a prayer warrior; a noisemaker.

And quit blaming the Holy Spirit for your bad behavior, wouldya?

Speaking in tongues.

by K.W. Leslie, 28 September
1 Corinthians 14.39 KJV
Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

The technical term for tongues-speaking is glossolalia. (Greek γλωσσολαλία ɡloʊ.soʊ.la'li.a, which Americans re-pronounce ɡlɑ.sə'leɪ.li.ə and just means “tongues-speaking.”) Theologians, psychologists, historians, and anthropologists call it this. ’Cause Christians aren’t the only ones who do it. Lots of people do. Including—and this fact tends to startle certain Pentecostals—lots of other religions.

Yep. Christians tend to assume only we do tongues. But plenty of pagans do. Actual tongues, not just muttering in foreign languages, like when you’re watching a bad horror movie and magicians suddenly start incanting in Latin. (’Cause somehow Latin has become the devil’s favorite language; Satan’s existed for millions of years, yet none of the other human languages did it for him until Etruscan evolved into Latin, and then it said, “Oh wait guys, we gotta learn this one,” and now all the devils speak it. But stupid movie tropes aside, other religions definitely do glossolalia.) The difference between Christian tongues and pagan tongues is really simple: Ours are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Theirs aren’t.

And the reason the apostles had to sort out the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 14, is because the Corinthians were more familiar with the way Greco-Roman pagans spoke tongues, and were bringing too many of these pagan behaviors and motives into Jesus’s church.

How’d Greco-Romans do tongues? As part of their worship, they’d get sloppy drunk. Or eat hashish or opium, or stand over natural-gas vents and get partially asphyxiated. They’d go into trances or semi-conscious states… and start babbling. Then their “prophets” would interpret the tongues. Spiritualists and psychics still do this: They try to alter their consciousness, babble a bit, then interpret the babbling.

Christians do not do it this way. Watch out for those who do!

Nope, we don’t go into trances. We don’t “lose ourselves” in any other state of consciousness. Our bodies don’t get taken over by the Holy Spirit, nor any other being. We’re fully conscious. Fully awake. Fully aware of our surroundings. Fully in control of our faculties: At any point we can intentionally stop, and no it’s not “quenching the Spirit” to do so. Like when somebody asks a question—“I’m sorry to interrupt you, but where’s the bathroom?”—or if prayer time has to stop for whatever reason. We’re in full control of ourselves. And the volume of our voices.

I know; some Christians regularly claim “I can’t help myself!” And they’re wrong. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. He’s not gonna break character because he’s making us speak tongues. If we have to pause, or stop, and pick it up later, we can. So those Christians who claim, “When the Spirit takes over, I’m not responsible for my actions,” are lying. They chose to be boisterous, attention-seeking, inappropriate, and rude. Same as anybody who shows off their public prayers on the street corner. Lk 18.9-14

If any tongues-speaker truly can’t control themselves, that ain’t God. Get an exorcist.

Physically, speaking tongues only consists of opening our mouths and talking. But rather than speak articulate words in a known language, we let our mouths do as it will. We disconnect the language centers of our brains from what our mouths do. Scientists, who’ve done MRI scans of tongue-speakers’ brains, found the creative and language centers have nothing to do with the tongues: The mouth works automatically and unconsciously, and meanwhile our minds are occupied with other things. (Hopefully prayer, as Paul instructed. 1Co 14.14-15)

The sounds coming out, will typically be the sounds one most often makes. This is why an English-speaker’s tongues will sound like English babble, and a Hebrew-speaker’s tongues will sound like Hebrew babble. The lips, tongue, and teeth may move unconsciously, but they’re not trying to make sounds they don’t normally make.

The syllables which come out of a tongues-speaker’s mouth have no standardized meaning. No grammar. No syntax. They’re not code. This is not a translatable language. They mean what they mean only in the moment. They’re not meant to teach us the language angels speak in heaven, so don’t bother trying to create a Tongues/English Dictionary, or printing tongues-words on T-shirts. (No seriously: People have made T-shirts.) Yet every so often a naïve Christian will try it: “I cracked the code! Wanda means ‘well done,’ and botta means ‘good and faithful,’ and honda means ‘servant,’ so that’s what it means to say Wanda boughta honda.” No no; don’t do that. You look like an idiot.

The usual purpose of Christian tongues is prayer. The Holy Spirit knows their meaning. Unless he empowers us to interpret these tongues, and let the rest of us in on their meaning, we don’t know their meaning—and usually don’t need to know. Translating them means we’re trying to do an end-run round the Spirit. We don’t wanna do that.

When supernatural gifts will no longer be needed.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 September

1 Corinthians 13.7-13.

I grew up among Christians who loved to use this passage of 1 Corinthians to make the claim God turned off the miracles. He never did, but a number of Christians claim he did, because they’re entirely sure they never saw a miracle, and consider their experiences the norm. Plus they subscribe to certain End Times theories which kinda require the miracles to be deactivated till the tribulation hits.

So when Paul and Sosthenes wrote the following, they put a cessationist spin on it. Here, I’ll quote it in their favorite translation (and, often, mine) the King James Version.

1 Corinthians 13.8-10 KJV
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

The passage is about love (Greek ἀγάπη/agápi, KJV “charity”) and how we oughta see it in supernatural gifts. That when it’s not there, the gifts are undermined. Pulling a verse from this passage and claiming there are no such gifts anymore, doesn’t just take the verse out of context, but flips its meaning 180 degrees. Just the sort of thing the devil might do, but I don’t blame Satan for cessationism; I blame Christianism. I blame people who claim to believe in God, and love the trappings of church and faith, but don’t know him at all, and think he’s far away instead of near.

When the apostles refer to “that which is perfect” in verse 10, these cessationists claim they mean the bible. Even though this passage is in no way talking about bible; it’s about love. It’s about how love exists forever, but certain supernatural gifts come to an end—at the End, when we interact with Jesus face to face, 1Co 13.12 and there’ll be no reason to receive these things supernaturally when Jesus can just tell us this stuff naturally.

But cessationists insist they came to an end already, once the bible was complete. In the 50s when Paul wrote his letters, the New Testament was still under construction, and wouldn’t be complete till John wrote Revelation decades later—so the apostles still needed prophecy and supernatural knowledge, ’cause they couldn’t write bible without it. But once the NT was complete, and God decided it was “that which is perfect,” the supernatural abilities would fail, cease, and vanish away. Gone till the End Times, ’cause Revelation describes a world where miracles happen (duh), so cessationists figure God’ll have to bring ’em back at that time. But not till then.

The love we oughta see in supernatural gifts.

by K.W. Leslie, 22 September

1 Corinthians 13.4-8.

When Christians write the about the bit from 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love, we almost universally take it out of context.

Myself included. ’Tain’t necessarily a bad thing: We quote it when we’re defining love. It states what love is, as opposed to what popular culture, and sometimes even popular Christian culture, claims it is. The apostles defined it properly, and we need to adjust our concept of ἀγάπη/agápi (KJV “charity”) accordingly.

But in context, the apostles defined it because they were correcting the Corinthians’ misperceptions about the supernatural. If you’re gonna strive for greater gifts, the only valid way to pursue them and do them is in love. If you’re not doing ’em in love, you’re doing ’em wrong.

And if you’re not entirely certain what the apostles meant by this “love” concept, permit ’em to straighten you out a bit.

1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL
4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t act with uncontrolled emotion.
It doesn’t draw attention to how great it is. It doesn’t exaggerate.
5 It doesn’t ignore others’ considerations. It doesn’t look out for itself. It doesn’t provoke behavior.
It doesn’t plot evil. 6 It doesn’t delight in doing wrong: It delights in truth.
7 It puts up with everything, puts trust in everything,
puts hope in everything, survives everything. 8A Love never falls down.

This is the mindset we must have when we act in, or strive for, supernatural gifts. With love. Like this. Know any prophets, faith-healers, tongues-speakers, and teachers who act in love? I surely hope so. I do.

Now, d’you know any wonder-workers who act the opposite of all this? Likely you do. I sure do. Let’s play an irritating little game of “Spot the loveless”:

  • Impatient. If you aren’t healed immediately, or can’t accept their prophecy or teaching, you’re to blame. Not the (supposedly) spiritually mature miracle-worker.
  • Unkind. Rude, dismissive, condescending, needlessly harsh.
  • Do act with out-of-control emotion. In other words, not gentle.
  • Do draw attention to their greatness. They do love those titles.
  • Exaggerate all the time. They only tell the big success stories… even though not even the bible tells only the big success stories. Some of our failures are teachable moments; some of our little successes can be more profound than the big ones. But for them, everything’s gotta be huge.
  • Ignores others’ considerations. Are you offended by something they said? Tough.
  • Looks out for themselves. It’s about their convenience; they’re busy people.
  • Provokes behavior. And is actually quite proud of doing so. Sometimes teaches the Holy Spirit wants to be provocative… not restorative.
  • Plots evil; delights in wrongdoing. And we’re not just talking about extreme cases of hypocrisy. Some hypocrites never commit big sins, but their lives are full of little trespasses. White lies, petty thefts, small cheats, sins of omission. They do add up though.
  • Doesn’t delight in truth. If truth is embarrassing or inconvenient, phooey on truth.
  • Puts up with nothing. Trusts no one. Hopes for little. Falls apart easily.

Fleshly supernatural.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 September

1 Corinthians 13.1-3.

When Paul and Sosthenes wrote 1 Corinthians, specifically the parts about the supernatural, y’might notice they didn’t write about fake supernatural. They didn’t write about frauds, like people who pretend to be faith healers but actually do nothing, or “miracle workers” who are only doing impressive stage magic tricks, or “prophets” who are really practicing mentalism. Certainly they could’ve written about such people, because there have always been such people. Just about every religion in the Roman Empire had one—because their worshipers expected the supernatural, so the priests had to show ’em something. There are two particularly famous stories of frauds in the apocrypha’s extra chapters of Daniel, and you can read it here.

But the apostles didn’t write about the fake stuff. They only wrote about the real stuff. Their main concern was the Corinthians were doing ’em wrong. Because that’s what we Christians do: The real stuff, wrong.

And the main way we do ’em wrong is by being the sort of people who produce bad fruit—the works of the flesh. Yep, there are such creatures as fleshly Christians. Either they’re new to Jesus and still have a lot of growing up to do, or they’re longtime Christians who never did grow up, ’cause they think other things are more important. Or ’cause they learned how to make all their fleshly behavior sound like it’s really fruit.

Christians naïvely assume if God’s gonna empower us with gifts of the Spirit, he’s only gonna do it when we’re good. We imagine the supernatural gifts are like the hammer Mjölnir in the Thor movies, and if we’re not worthy like Thor, the gifts won’t come when summoned. But that’s not even how grace works. God grants us supernatural gifts because we need them, not because we’re worthy. If somebody needs to be cured of a dire illness, God empowers the miracle regardless of how good or evil the petitioner, and the recipient, might be. The supernatural is not God’s endorsement. It’s his grace.

But like I said, Christians naïvely assume otherwise. We think it’s all about karma. If we’ve racked up enough points in God’s great big MMORPG of life, we get a power upgrade! So if Christians can exhibit supernatural powers, it must mean God highly favors them, ’cause they’re good people… or when they’re clearly not good people, ’cause they’ve gained his favor in some other way. Learned a lot of bible trivia, maybe. Worked in ministry for 10 years with low pay, so God owes them one and gave ’em the power to prophesy. Something like that.

And it’s nothing like that. Sometimes the Holy Spirit empowers fleshly Christians.

Seriously? He trusts fleshly Christians with that kind of power? Well no he doesn’t, because he always controls the power, and always will. But yes, he’ll actually work with and through fleshly Christians. Like I said, that’s the whole point of Paul and Sosthenes writing these 1 Corinthians passages: Fleshly Christians were doing supernatural things, and doing ’em wrong, and the apostles had to set them straight!

So right after the bit about striving for greater supernatural gifts, 1Co 12.31 the apostles mention an outstanding way to do it, and then started talking about love. Because it’s the preeminent fruit of the Spirit. It’s the fruit which arguably generates all the other fruit. God is love, so it’s a character trait God’s kids absolutely should exhibit. And if we don’t, we gotta wonder whether these are even God’s kids at all; for anyone who doesn’t love, doesn’t know God. 1Jn 4.8

Many Christians, cessationists in particular, tend to pull “the love chapter” out of context and only focus on how it defines love. We forget it’s all about supernaturla gifts, and how love has to be part of their practice. Has to. It’s how the whole chapter begins.

1 Corinthians 13.1-3 KWL
1 When I speak in human and angelic tongues:
When I have no love, I’ve become the sound of a gong, a clanging symbol.
2 When I have a prophecy—“I knew the whole mystery! I know everything!”—
when I have all the faith necessary to move mountains:
When I have no love, I’m nobody.
3 Might I give away everything I possess?
Perhaps submit my body so I could be praised for my sacrifice?
When I have no love, I benefit nobody.

When I have supernatural abilities—tongues, prophecy, enough wonder-working power to shove literal mountains around with a word—but there’s no love in it, there’s no love in me, I’m doing it for the power, authority, prestige, acclaim, and maybe donors will send a whole lot of cash my way. But really I’m a noise. I’m nobody. I benefit nobody.

And while Christians might pay particular attention to the “I’m nobody” parts—“See, you gotta minister in love!”—we too often forget this hypothetical loveless apostle… is still doing the supernatural acts. ’Cause the Holy Spirit still lets ’em do it.

Strive for greater supernatural gifts!

by K.W. Leslie, 17 September

1 Corinthians 12.28-31.

Part of the reason Paul and Sosthenes raised the subject of supernatural gifts was so we Christians wouldn’t be ignorant of ’em. 1Co 12.1 Too many are—both those who recognize God still empowers them, and those who insist he doesn’t. I, like the apostles, am only addressing that first group. That second group can just ignore me, same as they do the apostles.

There are all sorts of gifts, empowered by one and the same Holy Spirit, 1Co 12.4 distributed among Christians so they can contribute to Christianity’s unity. But do we see all Christians using these gifts to energize their various ministries? Do we see all Christians seeking and practicing these supernatural gifts? Miracles breaking out everywhere, mighty acts of power convincing the world God is really among us, the weak and sick flocking to churches because they know God has the cure, the lost and confused seeking out Christians because they know God has answers?

I wish. And I’m pretty sure Jesus, and plenty of my fellow Christians, wish so too.

What we see instead, for the most part, are people who are far more interested in using the power of politics than the power of the Holy Spirit. Who look to what money can do, rather than what the Spirit can do. Whose vision is based on developing and capitalizing on their own natural talents, rather than trusting the Spirit to do the heavy lifting. And yeah, there are cessationists who think God turned off the miracles, but they aren’t the real problem; they’re just a loud but tiny minority. It’s Christians who do believe in miracles, but don’t act on this belief any.

Same as the cessationists, they read this passage and reduce it to job titles. And sometimes adopt these titles, and remind everyone within earshot they hold these titles, so give respect where respect is due. Meanwhile they’re not growing God’s kingdom much. Mostly it’s just their own little fiefdoms. It’s a far cry from the Spirit’s intent.

1 Corinthians 12.28-31 KWL
28 This is who God put in the church:
First apostles. Second prophets. Third teachers. Then powers.
Then supernatural healing. Support. Leadership. Different kinds of tongues.
29 Not everyone’s an apostle. Not everyone’s a prophet.
Not everyone’s a teacher. Not everyone works acts of power.
30 Not everyone has supernatural healing. Not everyone speaks in tongues.
Not everyone interprets tongues. Right?
31 Strive for greater supernatural gifts!
And I’ll show you how—by an outstanding way.

This is what we oughta see in our churches: Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, the sick getting cured, the needy getting helped, the lost getting led, and loads of prayer. And if we don’t, we need to strive to see more: They need to become a greater part of our churches and Christian life.

One Spirit for the one body of Christ.

by K.W. Leslie, 16 September

1 Corinthians 12.4-27.

The way first-century pagans understood the supernatural, there were many supernatural abilities… but each of ’em was produced by a different spirit.

  • If you wanted healing power, you prayed to Apollo.
  • For wisdom, Athena.
  • For speaking in tongues, Dionysius.
  • For mighty acts of power, Zeus.

The Greek pantheon included a lot of gods, so if Apollo got ’em nowhere, they could also pray to Asklipiós, Panákia, and Ygihía. And frequently Greeks didn’t limit themselves to only Greek gods: If they got word the Egyptian or Persian or Arabian or Norse gods actually got stuff done, they’d try ’em out. Or if they figured the big gods were too busy, they’d try out lesser gods, personal gods, helper gods, known as δαιμόνια/demónia, from which we get our word demon. But nope, they’re not capital-G gods. Just unclean spirits.

Today’s pagans still think this way. If sick, they might try western medicine: They’ll grab some painkillers at the pharmacy, and maybe visit the doctor (unless they live in the United States and can’t afford it, so they Google their symptoms and try to diagnose themselves). If the doctor’s no help, they seek a second opinion. If no doctor can help, they look up researchers who are testing experimental cures—some legitimate, some very much not. Or they check out non-western medicine, like traditional Chinese or American Indian methods. Or psychic healers, medicine men, witch doctors. Whatever it takes to get well!

But Christians properly understand regardless of the method, there’s only one source of our life and well-being: God.

1 Corinthians 12.4-6 KWL
4 There are a diversity of supernatural things, and the same Holy Spirit.
5 A diversity of ministries, and the same Lord.
6 A diversity of activities, and the same God activating all in all.

The doctors at the hospital, the faith healers, the herbalists: They can only cure you if God grants ’em the knowledge to diagnose your ailment, the scientific technique to treat you, or the supernatural power to heal you. If they don’t depend on any of those things, you’re not getting cured. At best, you’ll heal up naturally and think your quack cured you. At worst, you’ll get tricked into thinking you were cured, and die anyway.

Same with any other supernatural thing you encounter. It was all done by God. Otherwise it was a trick. Devilish trick or human trick; doesn’t matter. ’Cause there’s only one Holy Spirit who dispenses the power. There are no others.

Some of the Spirit’s supernatural gifts.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 September

1 Corinthians 12.4-11.

When the apostles Paul and Sosthenes corrected the church of Corinth regarding the supernatural—in particular about the gifts the Holy Spirit distributes to his church—the apostles listed a few of these gifts. Didn’t define ’em; just listed ’em.

Nothing wrong with that. But the problem is cessationists, those Christians who believe God turned off the miracles once the New Testament was complete. So what do they do with Paul and Sosthenes’s list of supernatural gifts? They redefined every last one of them: They’re no longer supernatural, but natural. They’re the same sort of gifts any “gifted person,” any talented individual, any genius, might happen to have. Like perfect pitch, or instant recall, or the ability to do rapid math in your head, or amazing physical coordination. Hey, it’s not like the Creator doesn’t grant natural gifts!

So in a cessationist’s mind, the 1 Corinthians passages aren’t at all about supernatural gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit, but how God’s blessed his church with really talented people. Great preachers, musicians, artists, handymen. You know, like when the LORD instructed Moses to build a tabernacle, and “gifted” this one particular craftsman to do it just the way the LORD wanted it.

Exodus 31.1-5 KJV
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

Even gave Betsalél (KJV “Bezaleel”) a Spirit-empowered assistant, Oholiáv ben Akhisamákh. Ex 31.6 and together they could make anything. And did. Ex 38.22

But no, 1 Corinthians isn’t about getting way-better-than-average earthly abilities from God. It’s about getting unearthly abilities. Stuff nobody can naturally do. Stuff which proves the Holy Spirit is living and active among us, ’cause skeptical pagans can’t just brush these things off as the talented acts of clever people. They’re forced into a dilemma: Either God’s really among us, or it’s deception or self-delusion. Either he’s real or fake.

So here’s the list the apostles gave in 1 Corinthians—and the rubbish redefinitions which cessationists made up for ’em.

1 Corinthians 12.4-11 KWL
4 There are a diversity of supernatural things, and the same Holy Spirit.
5 A diversity of ministries, and the same Lord.
6 A diversity of activities, and the same God activating all in all.
7 Each individual is given a different revelation of the Spirit—to bring us together.
8 For by the Spirit, while a word of wisdom is given to one,
by the same Spirit, a word of knowledge is given to another.
9 By the same Spirit, to someone else, faith.
By the one Spirit, to another, healing gifts.
10 To another, powerful activity.
To another, prophecy.
To another, judgment of spiritual things.
To someone else, families of tongues.
To another, interpretation of tongues.
11 One and the same Spirit acts in all these things,
dividing them to each of his own people however he wants.

It’s not a comprehensive list. It’s not meant to be; there are plenty of precedents for other supernatural behaviors elsewhere in the bible. But this’ll get us started.

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 September

1 Corinthians 12.1-7.

SUPERNATURAL su.pər'nætʃ(.ə).rəl noun. Event caused by (or credited to) some force beyond scientific understanding, beyond natural laws.

If you wanna get technical, whenever anyone interferes with the natural course of events, it’s more-than-natural. It’s supernatural.

Fr’instance if I install plastic pink flamingos in my front yard. Clearly they aren’t the product of Mommy plastic flamingo and Daddy plastic flamingo loving one another very much, and giving one another a special kind of “hug.” Nor did they sprout up from the ground like mutant orchids. Somebody—really a whole bunch of somebodies—drilled for petroleum, extracted the plastic, colored it pink, molded it into a flamingo shape, and painted it to resemble a living flamingo. Somebody else—i.e. me—lost all sense of what’s appropriate for lawn ornaments, bought them, put ’em in the lawn, and got all the neighbors to seriously consider banding together in a homeowner’s association just to ban ’em. Other than the outrage, none of this happened naturally.

But we tend to call this behavior unnatural, not supernatural. We save the term “supernatural” for stuff which, we suspect, wasn’t done by humans, nor done by our robots. If a sasquatch started leaving pink flamingos around town, or space aliens, or spirits, vampires, inexplicably hyper-intelligent raccoons… well we’d be weirded out by the very idea of non-human intelligences, and call ’em supernatural. ’Cause they’re not natural!

But y’notice all these “supernatural” beings are creatures most people don’t believe in, or won’t admit to believing in, or insist no reasonable person would believe in. So “supernatural” tends to have a sense of ridiculousness attached to it. No sane person should believe in the supernatural, right? Those things aren’t real. Con artists claim to believe in them, but they’re just trying to dupe people into giving them money.

And I get that; I don’t believe in sasquatches either. But just because frauds and the defrauded use a word, doesn’t mean it’s not a valid word. There’s real supernatural in the universe.

Namely God.

When God creates something from scratch, fixes what’s broken, cures the sick, shares unknowable things through his prophets, or otherwise does stuff we can’t adequately explain through science and physics, “supernatural” is the proper term for it. Miracles are supernatural.

Now certainly God can, and does, use physics to do as he does. When he parted the Red Sea for Moses and the Hebrews, he didn’t do it as shown in The Ten Commandments; a wind blew all night and blew back the water. Ex 14.21 Skeptics like to point to this natural-sounding description in Exodus, and claim it suggests maybe God wasn’t involved, and like to “debunk” the bible’s miracles by trying to explain the physics behind ’em. But some miracles just plain defy explanation. Like when God made an axehead float, 2Ki 6.1-7 when Jesus and Peter walked on water, and certainly every time someone got raptured. Natural explanations or not, these events don’t have a natural cause. They’re supernatural.