This prophetic preaching involves teaching. All the ecstatic utterance, all the warm fuzzies, all the emotional religious experiences fall short, if they're not undergirded by strong, honest, deep, substantial teaching. Your Christian experience does not survive in a vacuum. Thank God for religious feelings. But check them out according to His Word.

Do you catch the dynamic oscillation here? You and I are called to think through our faith, grateful for the warm experiences of life, thanking God for the truth of His Word that is strong and substantial, even when our feelings fluctuate. I don't always feel good about myself or about God or about Anne or our daughters. I have my lonely moments, when Anne and other family members are preoccupied with their interests. How reassuring it is to see that gesture of love, that word of encouragement, that hug or kiss, that touch of intimacy that lets me know I belong. But there's a part of me that pathologically craves that acceptance. I can want more and more warm fuzzies, demanding of them and even of God experiences more ecstatic, more thrilling, more emotionally fulfilling, when what I really need is to trust their faithfulness and His faithfulness, taking them at their word.

Paul compares the gift of tongues with the gift of prophecy. Prophetic utterance is certain in its sound. The gift of tongues can make sounds that are confusing. He uses an illustration of the musical world. A flute or a harp can make sounds that are undistinguishable. A bugle blown by an untrained person can make the strangest sounds, can't it? Yet that same bugle can give a distinct sound, rallying the troops to battle. Paul writes,

"There are doubtless many different kinds of sounds in the world, and nothing is without sound. If then I do not know the meaning of a sound, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church" (1 Corinthians 14:10-12).

That's the bottom line. The love of Jesus Christ should motivate us to strive for that which excels in building up the church of Jesus Christ.

Finally, Paul speaks against what we could call mindless Christianity.

He's not putting down the gift of tongues. He thanks God that he himself speaks in tongues. He goes on to say that a ministry that builds up the church and sees beyond one's own personal satisfactions and narcissistic desires is so much more important. He writes,

"I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you; nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, then ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:18-19).

If you speak in tongues, pray for the power to interpret it. Fruitfulness is the key. Pray both with spirit and mind. Sing both with spirit and mind. Do what you do in a way that outsiders can understand.

It is true there have been times in history when the gift of tongues has ministered eloquently to others. We see this on the day of Pentecost. Peter spoke in tongues. Some of the Jewish leaders assumed that he was drunk, because his words came out in a babble that was indistinguishable to them but, through the Holy Spirit, communicated in languages understandable to those thousands of persons gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. They heard the Gospel in their own language.

However, if you and I indulge our own little private language that we find meaningful but it comes across in unintelligent language to others, they will consider us as insane. We are called to go out of our way to communicate in a way that commends itself to others.