As I took the bottle of Diet Coke from the fridge and opened it I was not expecting what happened next.
Before I had time to react, a fountain of fizz spurted from the bottle, running down the sides of the bottle, all over my hands, all over the worktop, and even onto the floor!
As I watched it cover the kitchen, the thought went through my mind: “It’s like the Holy Spirit.” I didn’t understand at first, but as I cleaned up I had time to reflect, and I began to get a sense of what God was saying.
The Holy Spirit and I have had an interesting relationship. For years he was a bit of a mystery. The church I attended didn’t teach much about the Holy Spirit. I knew the Holy Spirit was part of the Trinity, and I vaguely knew it was something to do with wind and fire at Pentecost, but that was about it.
I was taught that gifts of the Spirit were not for today- that miracles and healing didn’t happen, that if people thought they spoke in tongues they were deluded, that prophecy was not necessary because God had said all he needed to say through the Bible.
I knew we received the Holy Spirit as Christians but I had no sense at all of what he did or how we could expect to see him work in our lives today.
It was like carrying around a closed bottle of fizzy drink. You have it, and it is always there with you, but you never get to benefit from its goodness because you never open the lid.
Later I was part of two different churches where I experienced the opposite end of the spectrum of teaching on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was very much a focus. Speaking in tongues was normal, miracles and healing were expected, prophecy was thought of as something everyone could do and having a go was actively encouraged.
In many ways it was refreshing. I filled in a lot of the gaps in my knowledge, I was able to unlearn beliefs that I had never fully embraced, and it was exciting to see God at work.
However it wasn’t all good. At times there was pressure for people to respond in certain ways. There were times when the promised healing didn’t materialise and people were left feeling to blame, with guilt and shame heaped on top of the burden they were already carrying. There were times when bizarre statements would be claimed as words from God and people would feel they had to accept them.
A lot of the time it was like the bottle I opened in the kitchen- overflowing everywhere, uncontrollably, leaving a mess.
The temptation when that happens is to close the lid again and to keep it closed. The danger is that we conclude that it’s better when it is contained, that we allow fear and the desire to be in control to hold us back from attempting to open the lid ever again.
But what if there was another way? A way to open the bottle gently? A way to taste and experience the goodness that is inside without being left wet and sticky?
When I heard that Suzanne Eller was writing a new book about the role of the Holy Spirit, I was interested straight away. For the last few years I have been seeking to find a balanced view on the Holy Spirit, to trace a middle ground between these two extremes, and I think this book finds the balance well, gently opening the bottle to allow the contents out in a way that is helpful and edifying.
The Spirit-Led Heart takes us through the book of Acts, looking at some of the ways the Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of the first believers and exploring how he works in our lives today.
It covers areas such as boldness, truth, direction, confidence, and discernment. Each chapter ends with a specific Scripture to focus on, a promise about the Holy Spirit, an invitation, and a prayer.
For me, the main strength of the book is the real life examples. It is clearly not only a message that Suzanne Eller has researched, but one that she has lived, and the examples are powerful, relatable, and also honest- presenting a helpful and realistic picture of how we can expect to see the Holy Spirit working today.
The story in chapter 4 of Eller’s trip to India and the way God used her to minister to a woman there is breath-taking and leaves you with no doubt that God can do miracles today. However, she is also open about the fact that as she wrote this book, both her mother and her daughter were battling cancer, and that there is no guarantee that God will always heal everyone.
If you would like to learn more about the Holy Spirit or to understand more about his work today, then this book is a great starting point.
(I should point out that there is a small issue with the timeline of the book of Acts mentioned in the book. In chapter 2 it refers to the healing of the lame man by the Temple Gate in Acts 3 as taking place 30 years after Pentecost. I was puzzled by this as it didn’t fit with any other timeline for Acts that I had seen. Eventually I contacted Suzanne Eller to ask and she responded saying that it was an error which will be corrected when the book is reprinted. While it doesn’t detract from the overall message or teaching of the book, I though it was worth mentioning here as I found it confusing.)
I’m grateful to Bethany House and Netgalley for access to a complementary digital copy of this books in exchange for an honest review. I only share books here that I believe will genuinely be beneficial to my readers.
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