Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.Acts 16:6-10
- Was it really the Holy Spirit who called Paul to Europe? Perhaps it was just indigestion in the night or a mild case of food poisoning and he imagined all this.
- Did the direction of world evangelism really on a vision Paul had one night?
- I think those visions that people get in the night are suspect.
- So much of Christianity, in thought, evangelism, teaching and its western foundations seems to be a result of the influence of Paul the Apostle. Wasn’t he suspect Ian?
Let me add another question to the mix of those above which came to me in the last week. On the reliability of Paul, he is crucial to much of Christian thought and yet he seems open to “spiritual” input. Was he really blocked by the Holy Spirit or was it just his imagination?
Now we are getting into the crux of being led by the Holy Spirit. I have been teaching people in Deeper Bible to learn to rely on their right-brain input as well as their left-brain input. Our left brain is what focuses us on rational, logical analysis. This side of our brain is what has most of us thinking that Bible study is work, and it is! That is why we need time to analyse concepts, words, make lists and structure our study so we get more out of it. That is why we have to analyse the words, figure out what is being said in sequential sentences and pay attention to the words and phrases used. We have to be objective and analytical. But we also need to learn to use the right side of our brain which God gave us. The right side of the brain functions entirely differently. It is with the right side of the brain that some people can simply look at a field of sheep and “know” exactly how many sheep are in that field. How can they do that? By spatial perception. It’s a gift. The right side of the brain is focused on unstructured things: emotions, impressions, creative ways of looking at things. It is to the right side of the brain the Holy Spirit speaks in dreams and visions and those flakey things as some of you term them. But they are no less real and no less reliable. Such input is normally to do with sensing things. It is very visual, intuitive and very subjective. Yes, we have to be careful of flakey thought, but it is true that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in subjective ways and in pictures as well as appealing to our analytical left-brain side.
While at Bible College I had a study room next door to my friend John Mason. I was blown away when many times John would knock on the door and interrupt my Greek study to share what he had got “from the Holy Spirit”. Or ask me what I was getting from my study of the Greek text only to then tell me, “yes the Holy Spirit gave me that too . . . in a word picture”. He would tell me about it and indeed he had gained similar input but in a very different way. In a totally unstructured and spontaneous way, whereas working on the left-brain side is very time oriented and time consuming. I was envious but I could see it was valid. Paul was clearly open to the Holy Spirit’s input to him and willing to receive and accept it was from God.
Did the Holy Spirit prohibit Paul and Silas from going eastward or was it just Paul’s idea? The way Luke writes this section makes it abundantly clear this leading was the work of the Holy Spirit. It has been my experience in learning to work with the input God gives me on the right side of the brain that He often speaks to me a number of times telling me not to do something. It seems that I need to hear it multiple times before I will actually take notice of what He is saying to me. I think that is true of all of us humans. That is the emphasis behind what Luke is telling us here. The Holy Spirit hindered, forbid, prohibited, stopped Paul and Silas from going in the direction they intended and led them in another direction. Yes it was through a vision in the night. Not a dream, not a vague awareness of something, some impression that Paul then had to work out what God was meaning. No, but in a crystal clear vision related to what he had to do, given to him in an instant of time.
Recently I received an audio file of something absolutely amazing that happened as a result of a dream. I have tried to work out how to save the audio file I received on What’s App in order to send it with this email but nothing I do works. I can’t seem to save it. I only wish I could. I will try to send it in the next Gems so you can hear for yourself if I can work out the process of saving it. But for the moment let me give you a synopsis of the story. I trust it will challenge those of you who are skeptical about dreams and visions to rethink your stand on the matter.
A group of people connected with reaching M people with the Gospel in the Middle East prayed something very significant. They asked God to give many M people the same dream on the same night, including M leaders so that a larger group of people would be open and grow together and support one another. Often working with M people it is a case of winning one by one against the tide. A large number of people worldwide began praying for a breakthrough in the M world as a result of God speaking to scores of M men through the same dream on the same night. The story of what happened is what I received on the sound byte recording of a woman telling the result of concerted prayer.
A pastor was spoken to by God to go to a particular M people group and live among them to share Christ with them. He went because the Lord told him to go with his family and live in a particular town. He went and a few days after he arrived someone rang his bell on the gate before his front door. He went to the gate and found three masked men who put a gun to his head and shot him dead. Not long after that God spoke to another pastor and told him to take his family and go to the same town to work with these people and take the other man’s place. He moved into the same flat the first pastor had lived in.
Not long after he arrived with his family to live in that town, the gate bell rang again and when he went to answer it, the same three masked men were standing there. They put a mask or a hood over his head and then took him and threw him into the boot (trunk) of a car. He rode in the boot for a long time until finally the car stopped and they dragged him out of the boot, and marched him into a building still masked. They finally took the mask off and the pastor found himself in a giant room filled with 900 M men. When he saw all those men gathered the pastor figured they were planning a public execution for him to be videoed and put on the internet.
At that point one of the masked men said, “Sir we don’t mean to frighten you. Do you remember that man who lived in that flat before you lived there?” The pastor said, “Yes I do.” The man said “Well I am the one who pulled the trigger. The three of us are the ones who killed that first pastor. The night that we killed him, every single one of us in this room had the same dream. We dreamt that the blood of that pastor was on our hands. But that God in his mercy would send someone in his place to tell us how to get the blood off our hands. Are you that man?” That night that pastor had the amazing opportunity to share the Gospel with 900 M men and lead them to become Christ –followers. All 900 of those men came to know Christ as a result of having the same dream. And later all of the families of those 900 men also came to know Christ and follow Him.
That is a verifiable true story of how God spoke to many people by the same dream on the same night in answer to prayer and then led hundreds, more likely thousands to follow Him.
Does God speak in visions and dreams in this day and age? You bet He does.
Is it flakey? No way. It is a very valid way in which God speaks to the M world. But not just to M’s but to any person to grab their attention and open them to the work of His Holy Spirit.
I will try to find or make a copy of the sound byte I received so that I can attach it to an email on my computer. If that fails then simply send me a request to send you that file on What’s App. That’s how I received it. For those of you with whom I am connected via WA or email simply send me a request and I will send it to you on WA via my NZ number.
- To return to Peter’s original question, was Paul flakey, suspect?
- To be doubted because he had visions and dreams?
Not at all. It just goes to prove that Paul was balanced in his approach to the things of God, able to use both left-brain and right-brain methods to hear and discern what God was telling him. Now what?
Follow in the footsteps of Paul. Learn to use both sides of your brain to discern His voice to your heart and mind. But there is a catch. When you do start hearing or feeling that God is speaking to you, do whatever He tells you to do. I marvel at the faith, grit and determination of that second pastor in this latest account of God moving among M people, who had the courage to obey and follow in the path of the first pastor, even though it might have meant his ultimate sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but it certainly challenges me to lay my life down for the sake of my LORD and His Gospel. What about you?
Poor is a state of mind. You can be poor in spirit as well as poor in no having money in your wallet. Being poor in spirit is worse than that in money. Especially if you stay that way!Ian Vail
Don’t make your ultimate fear, the fear of dying? Fear living the WRONG life + becoming the WRONG PERSON. Fear losing your soul!Rick Godwin
Every day of your life, you have a choice to heed to promptings of the Holy Spirit or to neglect them.Ian Vail
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.Winston Churchill
Jesus promised his disciples 3 things: that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble!Rick Godwin