Tag Archives: Contemporary authors

Review: Missionary Tongues Revisited

Rating: ★★★★★

Who: Denzil (Denny) R. Miller, missionary to Malawi and director of the Acts in Africa Initiative. Miller saw that evangelism was alive and well in Africa, but very few African pastors were being discipled about the filling and gifts Holy Spirit, so this has been his primary ministry focus for some years. He has many books on the Holy Spirit and on Luke-Acts.

Overview: This brief book begins with Miller’s take on early Pentecostal missionaries, who thought that the gift of tongues was for the “regions beyond,” and that when they got to China, they could evangelize using the gift of tongues. Needless to say, they were mistaken; but, Miller says, the thrust of the idea was correct, and we need to return to a missional understanding of the Holy Spirit in general and of the gift of tongues in particular. He writes:

“While the early Pentecostals’ bold experiment with missionary tongues was a failure, they were, I believe, right to place speaking in tongues into missiological categories.” (Loc. 1129)

Meat: I thought that this book would deal primarily with “missionary tongues,” but, after Chapter 1, the rest of the book (six chapters) is about shifting our understanding of tongues and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For many Pentecostals, tongues are the “initial physical evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.” Miller agrees with this, but he adds the following:

  1. Tongues are confirmatory evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Tongues are a missional sign that the believer is a Spirit-empowered witness.
  3. Tongues are a prophetic release for Christians desiring boldness to preach to the unreached.
  4. Tongues are an empowering element for Christians living in mission.

If we think of tongues only as a confirmatory evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit, we have missed the place of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in God’s global mission. “For Luke tongues were part and parcel of the empowering experience.” (Loc. 971)

Bones: Honestly I could not think of any criticisms. Miller is concise and biblical.

Quotes: “The Classical Pentecostal doctrine of ‘initial physical evidence,’ while true in itself, is an incomplete understanding of Luke’s missional presentation of tongues.” (Loc. 136)

“In Acts Luke presents Spirit baptism as a powerful missions oriented experience accompanied by Spirit-inspired prophetic speech in both unlearned and learned languages.” (Loc. 942)

This missional empowering takes place, not only when one is first baptized in the Holy Spirit signified by speaking in tongues, it occurs again and again each time the Spirit-filled believer prays in the Spirit.” (Loc. 1001)

Related: The 1:8 Promise of Jesus.

You can buy this book on Amazon for just $5.95 for a digital copy, or $10.95 for the paperback.

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Review: When Heaven Seems Silent

Rating: ★★½

Who: Mark and Tammy Endres are Charismatic ministers connected with Randy Clark’s Global Awakening network, now over a ministry called Hand of Jesus. They both also have experience in special education and other fields.

Overview: Mark and Tammy have been in Charismatic teaching and ministry for many years, and have seen many people healed in various ways. But this comes with an ounce of disappointment for them, because Mark was born without a hand on his left arm. As you read their story, it becomes clear that multiple people have given them prophetic words about his arm being healed, without them prompting or asking for prayer on the topic. When Heaven Seems Silent is their journey in handling the discrepancy between these prophetic words and their reality.

Meat: When Heaven Seems Silent has some important Scriptural truths on what it means to avoid bitterness when God does not solve a problem for you, or does not bring healing when you ask for it. Chapters like “Trusting God’s Intentions” defend a high view of God and his justice on this earth. For the Endreses, there may be a variety of reasons that God doesn’t perform a miracle, but more important in the end is that God is our Father, and we are his beloved children.

Bones: This book comes from what I call the “Power” camp—the descendants of the Word of Faith movement, who generally believe that miracles are central to church life and devotional life. I can imagine that when you walk into certain churches with a limp, people want to pray for your limp immediately. But for most mainstream churches, limps are simply part of existence—not something that needs to be reconciled to your worldview.

The problematic question raised by this book is, “What are God’s promises, and how does God give them to us?” If I receive a prophetic word, a word of knowledge, or a dream, does that carry the same rank as God’s promises given to me in the Bible? If someone gives me a prophetic word, should I arrange my life around it? We “do not despise prophecies,” but they are not part of the bedrock of faith either.

An aside: There are also some teachings from “inner healing,” which include a series of buzz words like: “soul ties,” “generational sin,” and “inner vows.” These ideas, in my view, have only been harmful to the church and dredged up past guilt in exactly the way that a minister shouldn’t. Counseling can help Christians to see how their past problems affect them now, but I don’t particularly believe that we need to “renounce” our parents’ mistakes or past actions in order to receive either “inner” healing or physical healing. We cast down imaginations that exalt themselves against Christ by meditating on and obeying God’s Word, not by renouncing ties or vows in our primeval past.

Quotes: “Beneath the pain of delayed answers is the promise of God, which does not diminish through our suffering.” (p. 110)

“Not every promise is unconditional. Some promises must be carried tenaciously if we are to see their fulfillment.” (p. 68)

The book addresses how grief and disappointment can make it difficult to draw near to God. “Pulling away from God only increases our pain and deepens our disappointment.” (p. 36) “All of us face a crossroads when confronted with pain. We often respond one of two ways: we shut down, or we open up.” (p. 96)

“Miracles and the fulfillment of promises in and of themselves do not settle our faith issues. Our assurance must come from who Jesus is, and who we are in him.” (p. 56)

“For five years or so my prayer life was basically three words: ‘I love You.’ I don’t understand you, but I love you. Over and over I gave him my love in the darkest place of my life.” (Bob Sorge, qtd. on p. 67)

“My soul refuses to live in the badlands of abandoned promises. I am resolved to do whatever I must to keep his promise close to my heart.” (p. 69)

Related: The Fire of Delayed Answers (Bob Sorge).

Review: Has Christianity Failed You?

Rating: ★★★★

Who: Ravi Zacharias, modern apologist and speaker. Ravi is the author of Can Man Live Without God? and many other books.

Overview: This book is one of Ravi’s lighter reads, and it deals with various points relating to doubt and suffering. This may sound like covering old ground, but books like Can Man Live Without God? deal with the rational basis for theism; Has Christianity Failed You? focuses on heart issues.

The main thrust of the book, in my opinion is two points: First, we are incapable of true transcendence, and must learn to cope with uncertainty. Second, God retains his right to act as he will, and is not bound to do everything we ask, even in prayer. Jesus did not solve all of the world’s problems, and did not promise to do so on this earth. He came to provide a way to the Father and a path to redemption.

We experience some miracles, but not all the miracles we want; we see some of God, but not all we would like. In the end, the hunt for miraculous transcendence leaves us where we started: asking for ‘just one more’ proof of God’s existence. We must obey the God that we know, rather than asking him to obey us.

Ravi gives the powerful example of John the Baptist in prison, sending a question to Jesus to ask if he is truly the Messiah. Jesus points to the miracles all around him, but does not stage a coup against Herod, or smuggle John out of prison, or perform a miracle in John’s behalf. So John dies because of the testimony of Jesus’ Messiahship—the Messiahship that delivered from sin, but not from pain.

Meat: The chapter on prayer is worth reading more than once. Frequently a loss of prayer life is the erosion of the foundation under the spiritual life, and if we can address its issues, we will not feel like Christianity has failed us. Some readers might be surprised when I say that Ravi is at his strongest when he gets to the heart issues, and we should not relegate him to the apologetics shelf.

Bones: Ravi brings a wealth of examples in this book—so many that sometimes I couldn’t follow the train of thought from point to point. Each chapter makes great points, but it was hard at times to see how they connected to one another. The chapter addressing “The Reason-Driven Life” almost felt like it was in the wrong book.

Quotes: “Virtually every great leader in the Bible struggled during times of testing or tension over what they thought God should do or say, even though they had recognized God’s divine intervention earlier.” (p. 77)

“At first blush, the miracle seems the only way to win a following. But the fickleness of the human mind, our insatiable desire to always want ‘just one more,’ the ever-present reality of need, our desire to play God and hence to control God, the apparent ‘hiddenness’ of God when we need him most—all these reasons that become even more urgent in intense situations make the plea for the arm to be reattached ‘just this once’ highly suspect.” (p. 77)

“If you a praying Christian, your faith in God is what is carrying you, through both the good times and the hard times. However, if you are not a praying person, you are carrying your faith, and trying to carry the infinite is very exhausting.” (p. 151)