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Laughter in Church?????
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Reports of uncontrollable laughter in church services, persons falling down, running, jumping, and
rolling on the floor with glee like little children have circulated in Christian circles. Is this apparent disorder right or wrong?
As associated with what has sometimes been called
the Toronto Blessing.
Some Spirit-blessed preachers support it as a work of God, while other preachers of equally sincere and proven Christian character declare it a deception and even demonic!
 
Thankfully, the Word of God gives us clear and unambiguous guidance.

 
1. JUDGE ONLY AS A 'TREE' IS KNOWN!  
Jesus said it! –  
"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles?
...A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit...
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them".

(Matt.7:16-20).
It is
non-negotiable! No matter how we may dislike the way a thing is done or even feel threatened by it – its practical spiritual and moral effect on the participants is the only measurement of a thing's true nature.
 
 
That does not mean it is being managed in the right manner, but what is being done is either true or false according to this criterion. Wise management of a situation is a distinctly different issue.
 
 
Happily, first-hand reports of the effects of this 'laughter in the Spirit' are that personal problems have often been wonderfully resolved in the lives of persons affected.
 
 
As reported recently: a young woman of terribly traumatic background, starting with gang rape followed by a series of collapsed marriages, emotionally crippled and unable to function in daily life without constant support, has been transformed into a healed, balanced, happy, self-confident outgoing person with a strong Christian witness.
 
 
Also, a couple, with their own business facing ruin and financially beyond help, within a week have had such a turn around in themselves and a providential flow of new contracts to their business that their crisis was turned on its head to become a blessing to others.
 
 
The further effect in the lives of these same persons has been, with gratitude, to love and adore the Lord Jesus Christ with an affection they had never known before. Hallelujah!
 
2. WHY THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR?  
 
Falling, laughing, adults behaving like children, etc. Why?
 
The
human body is the house of more than our spirit. It carries our emotional structure – with its history. The common factor in most of this unusual behaviour is joy - expressed in ways that seem undignified, uncontrolled, embarrassing, etc. It is more the behaviour of ecstatically happy children. Why?
 
 
The only emotional fruit of the Holy Spirit listed is joy. And joy is the only appropriate emotional response to the victory of Jesus Christ! Less than this is most inappropriate to the Lord's presence. The degree of joy and the nature of its expression will differ according to the circumstance, but life in the Spirit is JOY. There is a place for grief over loss, sorrow for sin, etc., but that is not the norm. In effect the emotional structure of people is being 'tuned-in' to the joy of the Lord.
 
 
If this really is a work of God in people's lives there is also a maxim to remember: 'what Satan cannot stop, he tries to join'. There will then undoubtedly be individuals whose behaviour is suspect, a product of weak self-esteem reacting to the group-dynamic, or perhaps even demonic (as the early church experienced). But remember that, although spiritual leaders must protect the believers by giving guidance and applying discipline, our personal responsibility is to do as the Word of God instructs:
"judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.
He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. ...
Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit,
so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying,
"Do not go beyond what is written."
Then you will not take pride in one man over against another."
I Corinthians 4:5-6.
See inconsistent translation
 
Consider seriously the following scriptures:
"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 13:5).
"For the kingdom of God is ... righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit"
(Romans 14:17).
"Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and
their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity."
(2 Cor.8:2).
"What has happened to all your joy?"
(Gal.4:15).
"You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering,
you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit."
(1 Thess.1:6).
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds"
(James 1:2).
"Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now,
you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy"

(1 Pet.1:8 NIV).
 
Our
physical body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor.6:19). The command to be filled with the Spirit involves this same physical "temple" being filled (brought under the influence of the Spirit) (Eph.5:17-20). For this reason we are to live holy. For this reason we are to use our body in worship – that the power of His presence might reside in us also, to do the works He did.
 
 
If the Holy Spirit shook the physical building in which the first disciples were praying how dare we raise doubts about the Holy Spirit having a "physical" effect, as though this somehow indicated "demonic" activity.
 
 
Jesus is not unfaithful to His children to make them depend upon techniques of "testing the spirits" in order to be safe from the demonic. This is a paranoid theology at best and an abuse of Holy Scripture. The surrender of oneself called for by some that lead the "laughter-revival" is not a passivity that invites demonic intrusion as its opposers allege. It is the proper trustful surrender of one's person to the Lord present among His people (as He promised).
 
 
The Lord has more right to affect the character of our emotional life than any other factor that influences us. Christianity involves more than mental assent to the truth and a determined decision of the will. Our emotional life is also a vital part of our personality structure and is therefore rightly a realm of the Holy Spirit's renewing activity and part of our Christian experience.
 
 
Lastly, it needs to be remembered also that sometimes the presence of the Holy Spirit's anointing in a gathering of the Lord's people can provoke bizarre behaviour as a reaction from demonic contamination of a person's emotional structure. This is not to be feared. Sometimes, all the demon wishes is for the person presenting the bizarre behaviour to be removed from the meeting in order to avoid the influence of the Holy Spirit on that person that is coming through the believers. Those responsible need wisdom to address the need rather than the decorum of the occasion.
See: demons
3. EMOTIONAL HEALING 'UNCORKS' FAITH!  
Without
faith spiritual effort is fruitless. Faith is the channel through which all that God gives to us flows. Yet, most often our believing is not with our whole being, hence the meager results in prayer. As humans our feelings directly affect our attitudes and actions. In an idealistic world Christians would do what is right no matter how they felt, but we do not. The renovation of the emotional climate within us is therefore a necessary work of the Holy Spirit.
 
 
All of us are weighed-down at times by unconscious depressions and discouragement, quite apart from when we are directly aware of negativity within us. This susceptibility is part of the natural sin-state of our flesh that needs continual tuning-in to the One who makes "heaven rejoice" when one sinner repents. God's renewing work brings our physical sensitivities into line with His presence by blowing away ingrained remnants of depression, discouragement, and other negative conditions within each of us by the power of His joy.
 
4. CHURCH ORDER MUST MATCH ITS PURPOSE!  
A
warning: beware the extremes
 
 
On the one hand (a) an anything-goes-as-long-as-its-a-blessing attitude, and on the other, (b) a stay-within-the-parameters-of-planning-and-precedence attitude.
 
 
We so easily tend to judge the "right" order of a meeting by how it affects one personally. A sense of decorum is often trotted out as being right-order. To the Bible right-order is not an orderly sequence or even a dignified atmosphere in which things are done. It is the caring purpose toward all present that controls the method of doing the things that are done. Remember also that too much of our culture has been disguised as Christian and imported into the church in our way of doing things, for us to use the usual as a measurement to judge the unusual.
 
 
The Word of God instructs that love-for-others is the central factor in doing things "decently and in order" (I Cor.13,14). What may be genuinely inspired of God to one person nevertheless has no right in the meeting unless it conveys meaning to others.
 
 
That is why (as a rule) "tongues" spoken or sung without interpretation is out-of-order (I Cor.14:13-18).
 
 
That is why inspired prophecy made in-audible by the prophesying of the next prophet is out-of-order (I Cor.14:30-33a).
 
 
Again, the Bible says (II Cor.5:13): "If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God;
if we are in our right mind, it is for you."
(II Cor.5:13 NIV). In intimate worship one may be "beside" oneself, but in caring for other persons in a public meeting one is "sober" (not sombre), that is, concerned for their blessing.
 
 
Paul's out-of-the-body experience was definitely not in a public meeting (II Cor.12). The discretion of his reference to it affirms this and is in itself an example. For this reason even the "spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" – therefore someone in submission to this love-order of service can never disregard the welfare of others. All foolish behaviour that is not rebellion is simply the clumsy, unstable, reluctant, response of our flesh to the overwhelming power of His presence. And this often happens. It is the tardiness of the physical body to be in harmony with the moving of the Holy Spirit that may, under the power of His presence, malfunction in movement, speech and consciousness. The priests at Solomon's dedication of the Temple had a similar experience of God's presence (II Chr.7:2). This is not a new phenomenon in Christian history either. But, blessing that distracts others in a public meeting from the purpose of that meeting does not belong in a public meeting.
 
 
Pastors and elders, more than any other, are responsible to protect the believers from the immature behaviour of others. But that also does mean that, as children who learn to walk must be allowed the risk of stumbling and falling, so allowance must be made for the dynamic of the Holy Spirit renewing a person's emotional life to 'splash' if the container wobbles.
 
5. REGARD THE RIGHTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  
A
history of spiritual renewal in the Christian church indicates that it has been necessary often in the past for the Lord to use unusual means to break the church out of its doctrinal sterility and liturgical formality. The consensus of  church conduct has been to regard the Holy Spirit as simply the energy of God which enables us to do the right-things. The person-hood of the Spirit has been consistently dishonoured because it would necessitate His lordship within the church no less than that Christ is Lord over the church. Though the Quaker revival of the 17th century went off-course in its second generation it nevertheless was a real spiritual renewal in Anglican England and the pre-eminence of the Presence was its keynote, at times disruptively so.
 
 
No renewal of the church has ever occurred from refining the accuracy of our doctrinal definitions. As important as teaching is Jesus never based the effectiveness of His ministry on accurate communication. He even hid it from the disinterested (Mat.13:10-17). Truth was but a tool to challenge and turn people around - to know God! Peter's realization of the messiahship of Christ was, according to Jesus, the product of a devotional relationship (Mat.16:17), knowing God, and is the purpose as well as method of doctrinal understanding (Jn.6:45).
 
 
Meetings of the church were never meant to 'house' the pastor's ministry. Therefore to gear the whole order of meeting to the pastor's function by preparing for the preaching in worship, listening to the sermon, and then helping to reinforce the sermon in closing songs is not a biblical order of service. The order of service commanded in I Corinthians 11-14 is one in which the variegated gifts of the Spirit are accommodated without one form of ministry being allowed to dominate the meeting. For this reason limits are placed on the ministry of prophets (14:29), one of the most Spirit-inspired forms of ministry. Most therefore of what we today regard as "normal" and orderly is not.
 
 
The Holy Spirit's purpose in each meeting ought to dominate the liturgy of that meeting. Yes, there is always the general purpose of God as read in Scripture, but the Holy Spirit is personally present and only an intimate acquaintance will allow His will to be done.
 
6. MAKING ROOM FOR MORE ...  
"Soaking"
in the Spirit, "waiting on the Lord", "tarrying" etc.?
 
 
There is a history of "tarrying meetings" in the background of most Pentecostal denominations. Even the early Quakers only quaked, usually, after a time of "waiting on the Lord". Quaking was not the purpose of their waiting but, as is also the present danger, the physical phenomena caught the imagination of others and branded them. God forbid that we should hear of a new denomination or church movement of "Laughers". And this could too easily happen if it does not lead on to more. Giving time to the Presence of God, the Holy Spirit, is part of the heritage of Christian devotion that has died out largely in the church.
 
 
Changing the spiritual climate of the body takes your time. It is not an instantaneous effect. Whether it takes ten minutes or two days, it is a process that takes time because our physical body is time-related. If you don't believe it look in that mirror. Spending time tuned-in to the Lord is the quickest route to answered prayer. But it does take your time! How much time depends upon our readiness to be filled with Him, and the gracious anointing of His presence. This is not time spent sitting listening to a sermon, singing, testifying or meditating, as good as these are. It is time spent in encounter – in worship at His feet!
 
 
Do we really think the Lord is worth it?
Can He be trusted to respond to our availability to Him?
 
Try it
– and find Him changing you.
Accept the challenge, and let's run with vigour toward this goal . . .
 

Church Meeting Dynamics Bizarre Behaviour The Spirit and Your Flesh



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