Technically, yes and no. There can be miracles whether you believe or not. I have no idea when I’ll stop using lyrics for post titles, we’ll see I guess.
This post is all about God and his activity in the supernatural on Earth, past and present. The motivation for this post stems from a friend’s question on the purpose of tongues in the church and another’s on Quakers, well, quaking in worship. Most of the material I’ll be using will come from one of three places:
- First hand experience, things I’ve witnessed or personally felt/done.
- Second hand experience, things people I would vouch for have witnessed or personally felt/done.
- The Bible.
All of the links for bible verses have the actual verse in the alt-text, so you can just hover over them to see the verse, should help with flow. Onward now!
Infinitely deep, rich, and complex; yet the most relatable person you’ll ever meet. A loaded sentence there. I’m coming from the perspective that God is a person, who can and wants to have a personal relationship with you. God is simultaneously one entity and three, the trinity: God the Father (God), God the Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. These three/one are co-equal and co-eternal.
There’s some of the official theology, the point I want to focus on for now is in these two quotes:
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
So, God is good, wild, and also not ‘safe’ (or what you perceive as safe.) As Bill Johnson, senior pastor at Bethel Church and one of BSSM’s lecturers, said today, “if God wanted us to be comfortable one of his names wouldn’t be the Comforter.” The ways God expresses His self to us are innumerable, certainly beyond the documentary capacity of one book (John 21:25).
God is not to be placed in a box, and God will do as He pleases, so don’t go making rules or formulas about how He works.
The reason I’m saying all of this is because when I originally went to lay out the different kinds of ways God demonstrates his power I started limiting him to my understanding, which is a bad idea. With that in mind, I’m going to make some basic groupings later, but know that there’s more to it than what I’m writing.
Gifts of the Spirit
The gifts of the spirit are listed in a few places, mostly by Paul. My favourite one is 1 Cor 12:8-10:
- Word of wisdom
- Word of knowledge
- Gifts of healing
- Distinguishing between spirits
- Interpretation of tongues
I don’t really want to get into things like cessationism, so I’ll drop some verses here and move along: Matt 9:35, Matt 10:7-8, 1 Cor 4:20, 1 Thess 1:5a, and 1 Cor 14:1. I want to emphasize these last two:
“…because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.” ― 1 Thess 1:5a [emphasis mine]
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” ― 1 Cor 14:1 [emphasis mine]
The Holy Spirit brings power to the word of God, often through us in the form of gifts, and we are to eagerly desire these gifts.
Edifying The Church
Many people say that tongues is a lesser gift of the spirit. Paul seems to agree, especially that tongues is unintelligible jibber-jabber to the ears of all, and that only the spirit understands. In general prophecy is seen as superior as it is understandable and edifies (1 Cor 14:5). Some have used this as a reason to suggest we shouldn’t speak in tongues, and nothing could be sillier. Just because something is less important doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it all, just that more important things should have priority.
- Listening is more important than talking; don’t stop talking though.
- Melody is more important than harmony; barbershop quartets are still awesome.
- Driving a bus is more valuable to the riders than driving your own car.
In my experience, tongues rarely involves interpretation but is a corporate act done in worship or when the speaker asks. The effect is often exciting, freeing, and fun for everyone. In a way it is edifying to the church internally, but externally it’s more like 1 Cor 14:23.
As far as quaking, shaking, rolling on the floor, well there’s the day of Pentecost which, among other things, involved behaviour described to mimic drunkenness (Acts 2). I’ve seen and heard a lot in my time as a christian. Screaming, whoops and hoots, convulsing, crying, laughing, heat, electricity, numbness, tingling. These are cases of what we call manifesting, where God’s presence is manifested physically in people. One of my most intense experiences involved electricity in my jaw, nape, and arms. I say electricity because the sensation was more intense than the electromyopathy I’d had in physical therapy.
God heals! I’ve healed people, I’ve seen people healed of impossible things (my brother saw someone healed of terminal lupus). And the healing is always available, it is always God’s will to heal, it’s one of his names! Jehovah Rapha, The God who Heals. But this is for another post maybe.
And God doesn’t just manifest in people, Bethel Church has been witness multiple times to glory clouds, collections of glittery dust that manifest from nothing, don’t really settle, and fade into nothing again. Sometimes they’re spread thin across a room, sometimes they’re thick swirls that ebb and flow in direct response to the worship team or the speaker. I’ve seen one myself and can say it wasn’t just dust catching light. My parents saw this one last year.
I hope that clears up some of the original questions, and opens up a wealth of new ones! Have a good one all.