Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 11/2/03
"And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues" (Mark 16:17, RSV).
Perhaps no other gift of the Spirit has caused as much controversy as speaking in tongues. Even those who don't believe God heals today will accept healing, for instance, because its benefits are so obvious and visible. Casting out demons is another matter, since some Christians haven't even experienced the power of the Lord, let alone the power of the devil's minions. Gifts of prophecy and knowledge seem to operate best amongst those who believe in them, and again, are not as visible as tongues. Since the church I grew up in taught that the Holy Spirit went back to heaven after the last apostle died, taking the gifts with Him, tongues were never an issue for me until I encountered the Holy Spirit up close and personal.
It happened after I had moved to California. The Lord had sent a woman to the little congregation where we worshipped, who led an elder's wife into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Of course, this woman did not have the power to give anyone the Spirit, but God used her to introduce people to Jesus, the Baptizer in the Spirit. John the Baptist said of Jesus, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11, RSV). I'm reading A Man Called Mr. Pentecost, about David Duplessis's ministry, which was to introduce the Holy Spirit to the mainline churches. He was very clear about the fact that he had no power to impart tongues or any other gift to anyone, that Jesus is the baptizer. He said of himself that he only introduced people to the Baptizer in fire and the Holy Spirit. Often the fire comes right after the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In my case, the fire began during a trip home to Neosho. My sisters and I called for a meeting with the preacher and the elders of the church we grew up in and told them that we had all made a horrible mistake when we believed the Holy Spirit went back to heaven. We testified that the Spirit is alive and well on planet earth. One said to me, "You were my best bible student. How could you have gone so far astray?" Another commented, "Well, Jan, it looks like you've become a 'holy roller.'" Still another concluded, "This has happened because you stopped reading the King James Version of the Bible." I'm not sure what my sisters and I thought would happen, but it wasn't this sneering derision. To add insult to injury, the elders paid a visit to my mother, who had nothing whatsoever to do with our new found belief and told her she was not to teach this in her Sunday School class.
The fire of God had begun to purge me of the doctrines of men, burning off the dross and sweeping away the chaff. It has been going on for about 35 years now, and when I get a little weary of it, I remember that Paul said, "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (I Cor. 3:15, RSV). Like everyone else, Lenny and I have been drawn to the Television images of the devastating fires which are sweeping through Southern California this week. All the tragedy notwithstanding, fire is nature's (God's) way of clearing out the dead wood, the chaparral and debris that prevents new growth.
It has been ten years this month since a fire storm swept through Carlisle Canyon, outside Westlake Village, CA, where we lived. It burned every living thing in its path, but by God's grace and a fire truck at each residence, no homes were lost except two trailers which were there illegally, and unknown to the fire department. To help make the payments, Lenny and I had rented out our house to a young couple from Manhattan, NY, who wanted to experience country living. We were living in a tiny travel trailer down below the house, under a huge oak tree. I remember standing outside the house, looking over the Santa Monica Mountains, where the fires raged just like the images we saw on TV this week. I rebuked the flames and told them to burn into the sea, which was the other direction from our property. For a time, the fire did indeed turn and burn toward the sea, which stopped it cold, but the winds shifted again, and it came roaring back up the mountain, where it blasted through Carlisle Canyon like a freight train (the Fire Marshall's description).
The fire department gave us fifteen minutes to gather whatever we could and get out. I was not panicky, but dumbstruck. What can you take in that time? All our pictures and other keepsakes were packed in moving boxes in the third bay of the garage. (The young couple used two bays and we had the third). We got some clothes from the trailer to wear until it was over, and headed out to a motel which had agreed to take evacuees at a reduced rate.
Like everyone else, we watched the news broadcasts in horror, and wondered if our beautiful property was lost. We called the fire department, but they were unable to tell us if our house had survived or not. Finally, we were told they were allowing residents back into the canyon. We drove out there with fear and trembling. The closer we got to the house, the more frightened I became because everywhere we saw a moonscape of ash and soot and grime. The smell was horrible. Here and there small fires still burned, and everywhere were the skeletal remains of chaparral and smoldering tree trunks. When we got to the house, which was 1/10 of a mile straight up the mountain, we could see the pine trees were badly singed, but still standing, and we feared they would never come back. The house, praise God, was unscathed. There was a tiny note on the door, which I carried in my wallet for years afterward, which said, "Dear homeowner, we're sorry about the mess in the pool, but it is Monsanto fire retardant which we sprayed to save your house, and it is harmless." It was signed by a fire chief from Santa Barbara FD as I recall. The landscaping, shrubs, bushes and pine trees were scorched, but the house was perfect.
Then, we went down the hill to see about the trailer, and the closer we came, the more I realized that it was probably burned up, for there was nothing but smoke and ash everywhere we looked. When we got there, we found the trailer and the metal shed next to it which held our clothes, in perfect condition. The fire had swept up from the floor of the canyon, and right in front of the oak tree, behind which our trailer sat, it had split, burning to the right and to the left, as if a mighty angel had stood there, arms spread out, saying, "You can go around it, but you may not touch the trailer or shed." The fire had joined together again on the other side of the trailer and completely burned to the top of the mountain, and over the other side.
When I realized what God had done, I burst into tears and cried uncontrollably for 15 minutes before I could get myself together to look closer. Our son-in-law had made me a wind chime for my birthday, which hung on the canyon side of the oak tree. The clapper was oak carved into the shape of a heart. The canyon side of the heart was burned, but the side near the trailer was not. We had a picnic table under the tree. The canyon side legs were burned, but the rest of the table and benches were fine.
Not only that, but there was not even the smell of smoke in our clothes in the metal shed or in the trailer! This was another powerful lesson played out before my eyes of the fact that God is in charge of every second of our lives. He holds everything and everyone in the palm of His hands.
The result of that fire burning off the deadwood, undergrowth, and sweeping through the canyon was that the following spring, we had the most beautiful wild flowers we had ever seen; everything came back lush and beautiful, including the pine trees around the house. Out of the soul's dark night, God brought healing and beauty unbelievable in nature.
But what of those 20 people and 3,400 homes lost so far in this week's fire? I can only say that God's will is supreme, and my prayer for a miracle to knock down the Santa Ana winds (the old timers call them devil winds) is followed by my heart's yearning that all the victims, all the fire fighters, and especially the media see the hand of God bringing order out of chaos, working good out of evil, because He always does work all things together for good to those for whom Christ died.
God does all things well, and the Holy Spirit is His emissary bringing comfort and victory out of the agony of defeat and physical loss. I need to say here that after He saved our house and trailer from the fire, I really didn't think He would take the house away from us, but He did in April, 1997. The house still stands, but we don't own it because it was His will to take it away. In that financial crunch, we lost everything the world holds dear, but from it, we gained the Lord Himself. "Things" are not where it's at. Material goods can clutter up your garage, your basement, and occupy your time and your mind. God had other plans for us, that we should be Ambassadors of His peace and power and unconditional love right here in the Bible Belt.
And this, to me, is the essence of and the reason for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said about the Counselor who was to come, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you" (John 16:13-15, NIV). When we receive the Spirit, we may speak in tongues as an initial manifestation, or we may not. I was interested to learn that in David Duplessis's early life, he was a Pentecostal who believed that if you hadn't spoken in tongues, you had not received the Spirit. The Lord grew him up past that, but it is still believed by many today. This doctrine has caused more pain and heartache to the body of Christ than you can really know, because many people don't want to talk about it for fear of getting rejection and ridicule.
One dear lady told me recently that when she attended a conference last year, she felt like an onion in a petunia patch because they believe you have to speak in tongues to have the Holy Spirit and she never received that gift. My heart ached for her, because this teaching is unscriptural, a doctrine of men, not of the Lord. It divides the body of Christ rather than strengthening it.
I encourage you to read First Corinthians, Chapter Twelve, which is Paul's treatise on the gifts of the Spirit. He begins by affirming a great truth: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the SAME Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the SAME Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the SAME God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given FOR THE COMMON GOOD" (I Cor 12:4-7, NIV). He goes on to name the gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith (another proof that it is not OUR faith which counts, but the GIFT of HIS FAITH), healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues (Vs. 8-10). He says about all these gifts, "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as HE determines" (Vs. 11). Notice that the Holy Spirit is the dispenser of the gifts and the one who determines who gets what, and when. It has been Lenny's and my experience, that God gives us what we need for the job at hand. He has operated the gift of healing in Lenny many times, as well as prophecy, tongues, wisdom and knowledge. My gift of tongues is primarily English, for which I'm so grateful.
From the enumeration of the gifts, Paul goes into his beautiful discourse on the parts of the body, which we are (Vs. 27). If you are worried about your spiritual gifts or lack of same, ask the Lord what part of His body you are. The hand does not have the same function as a foot, and Paul concludes, "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?" (Vs. 17).
He names God's gifts to the church: apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, healers, administrators, and speaking in tongues. Then he asks, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (The answer is clearly, "No.") But eagerly desire the greater gifts" (Vs. 27-31).
From here, he launches into a discussion of LOVE, which is the greatest gift. He begins Chapter 13 with this wonderful observation: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." Too often, the body of Christ has been split by a clanging cymbal, or you might say a loud symbol of division. I was in a church which split right down the middle when the elders received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues. Because they had a ten minute start on the rest of the congregation, they decided that if you didn't have tongues, you didn't have the Spirit. It was brother against brother, hate and hostility run amok.
You will never find a church split where LOVE prevails, for love is patient, kind, never envious or boastful or proud. It is not rude or self-seeking, not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, or in disqualifying someone for service based on a gift that only God can give. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (Vs. 4-7).
Knowledge, prophesy and tongues will cease, but love will never fail (Vs. 8). Paul refers to childish prattle, which describes folks who say you have to speak in tongues to prove you have the Holy Spirit. Tongues and other gifts of the Spirit are the "in-part" realm. Mature sons of God are moving into a place where we know even as we are known, where the reflection we see in the mirror is Christ Himself. When we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him (I John 3:2), not for self aggrandizement, or as a test of fellowship, but because Paul says, we are "Christ's Ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us" (II Cor. 5:20), and as such He affirms, "In Him we might become the righteousness of God" (Vs. 21).
The righteousness of God is woven into the very being of His sons, not so we can be proud and lord it over someone who doesn't have the same gift as we, but so we can, with the tongues of men and angels, deliver God's gift of unconditional love to the dying world, which He has reconciled to Himself. Father, make us instruments of Your peace and Your marvelous love to all we meet. When they see us, may they experience the risen Christ in us and through us. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We are always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 10/29/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/28/08.