“She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:18).

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I praise God that he sometimes speaks to me through visions, dreams, and by various words. But these are not messages meant merely for my edification, but for the strengthening and encouragement of others. Nothing I receive is new; the Bible is already written, and God has always spoken to me through, and according to, his Word. And what he speaks is often hard to receive, but everything he speaks is from the deepest love. God is full of mercy.

A few times the Holy Spirit has drawn my attention to individuals, such as the man and the woman in spiritual bondage, I wrote about in a past post. But the Spirit doesn’t always draw my attention to an individual person. Oftentimes, the Spirit has drawn my attention, instead, to the principalities and powers working behind the people, behind the theology, behind the movement, behind the circumstance. Unfortunately, the world demands names and details, but all I can point to at times are fruits, and fruits can take discernment to be seen clearly. What I receive, I receive in part; what I’m given comes in a flash and most often jumbled and blurry. It’s like looking at a metaphor come to life, but in truth, what I perceive as reality is actually the metaphor, and the metaphor is actually reality. It’s enough to make my poor head hurt. No wonder it sometimes take days, weeks, months, even years to unpack.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets, because God is not a God of disorder but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:32-33), and context is key here. I do not lead the Spirit, but rather, the Spirit leads me. The Spirit of God has always worked through me based on need, never on want, and never on my terms. May I never place a stumbling block at the feet of a brother or sister. Instead, may I glorify God by conducting myself in a manner that other believers may be edified and encouraged (1 Corinthians 14:31). But I can only speak from my own experience, so let’s consider a few examples from scripture.

When the Holy Spirit filled the believers gathered on Pentecost, Peter addressed the confused onlookers about what they were witnessing. Again, Peter was carrying out the will of the Spirit when he healed the lame beggar. “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’” (Acts 3:6). Just try driving out a demon without God’s direction, and you may find out, first hand, what happened to the Jewish chief priest in Acts 19. “She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her” (Acts 16:18). Despite his annoyance, I can promise you, Paul didn’t drive out that spirit of his in volition. Even Jesus did nothing of his own initiative (John 8:28); he was always about his Father’s business.

God has shown me that I must look beyond what’s on the surface; look past the subtle. Set aside my selfish desires, which don’t always seem so selfish at the time, and look past what the devil wants me to see. “’You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5). Satan promises to satiate our deepest carnal yearnings, even when those yearnings masquerade as moral outrage; he is crafty and he is deadly. Instead, brothers and sisters, let the Spirit of God be your guide, your counselor, your helper, for many, perhaps, the very first time. Don’t forget that sometimes God speaks in a gentle whisper, just ask Elijah (1 Kings 19:12).

I do fail a lot, at least I feel as though I fail, and no, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I have only the knowledge God has graciously shared with me, in order that I may complete the work he has prepared in advance for me to do. Just this evening I unintentionally hurt someone I love, and although they may be unaware, my heart grieves. If only I did have all the answers, on the tip of my tongue, then perhaps, my responses would have been more fruitful. But I pray and I pray and I pray, and my heart yearns to do what is just and good to the glory of God the Father through Christ Jesus (Hebrews 13:21). Paul was she right, all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and despite having seen a glimpse of that glory, I continue to fall short every day. Praise be to God who justifies me by his grace through Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

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