Grace in Discernment

graceA wise person will know these things, and an understanding person will take them to heart. The Lord’s ways are right. Good people live by following them, but those who turn against God die because of them. (Hosea 14:9)

Ponder It.

  • How do you struggle with discernment?
  • How have your skills in discernment changed over time?
  • How has this series of devotions impacted your ability and desire to discern God’s will for your life?

Receive It. We’ve become accustomed to saying, “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” when it’s not obvious to us what God thinks about something. Perhaps we don’t think he’s interested in the issue, but God has interest in everything we do. He is invested in our lives. Instead of forging ahead if we don’t see something wrong with what we’re doing, thinking, or feeling, try flipping the question and ask, “What’s right with it?”

God’s wisdom isn’t human wisdom. When we mix a little of God’s truth with a lot of stuff we learn from everyone around us, we can become as disoriented as a blindfolded child trying to pin the tail on the donkey. We can rationalize that something is “kind of truth,” because it looks a little like truth, but there’s no hybrid truth with God. God pours himself into you because he wants you to fully know him. He wants you to discern what’s of him and what’s of the world, what’s okay to turn away from and what you need to face head on, when you need to speak up and when you need to be quiet. God’s wisdom can only come from God and is fully intended to glorify God. If we only ask and accept it, the Holy Spirit will give us this guidance and wisdom to live every moment of every day to glorify God.

Live It. When faced with a decision today, ask yourself, “Is this taking me one step closer or one step farther from God?” Commit every decision you make today to God, asking for and trusting his guidance.

Curiosity or Fault-Finding

discernThe Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away. (Matthew 16:1-4)

We need to be able to discern when people approach us with authentic curiosity and when they are only testing to find fault.

But notice how Jesus called them out. Here were people who were ready to recognize signs in nature, but look past the truth of Jesus right in front of them. That’s often the case today. People are willing to accept certain prophecies and signs and ideas that line up with their beliefs but can’t see truth in front of them. I suppose we’re all like that a bit. Our filters can get mixed up and clogged.

Hence, the need for discernment, which is sort of like keeping our filters clean and ready to sift through everything that comes our way.

 

Never Wise Enough

13shutterstock_211224619-700x467Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning…The wise store up knowledge. (Proverbs 10:13a, 14a)

Wisdom is spoken and applied, not just thought about. It’s not something we figure out, making a list of pros and cons to decide which side to choice. It’s not flippant, dependent on our own limited understanding and perspective. It is God’s.

Wisdom is stored and added to and readily available. It grows. Because it’s God’s, it’s endless. We won’t gather it all in this lifetime. But that shouldn’t stop us from seeking as much as we can. But it can’t be quantified and measured. It expands and retracts. It ebbs and flows. And part of that has to do with our humility and willingness.

Speaking wisdom and being silent requires discernment. It requires wisdom. It requires reliance on God. And some of us are not willing to rely on Him. We’d rather gather what we think of knowledge and wisdom on our own. Which isn’t very wise.

Seek it, speak it, store it, share it.

Our Love/Hate of Daily Requirements

indexSo David left Asaph and his relatives there before the ark of the Lord’s covenant to minister regularly before the ark according to the daily requirements. (1 Chronicles 16:37)

What are our “daily requirements”?

We all have them. We might look at others’ daily requirements, including those we observe at different times, different cultures, or different beliefs, and we declare them silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational. But we all have them, even if we don’t listen to God and rely on Him to determine them for us.

Even if we do listen to God for our daily requirements, we don’t necessarily see them as a blessing or honor. At times, we still feel as if they are silly, unimportant, oppressive, or irrational, even as we choose to follow them. Of course, sometimes we reject them. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that they are consider as “requirements” that we don’t like. We rebel against what is expected of us, especially in our independent culture. We don’t want anyone to boss us, including God, even when He is determining something that grows and helps us.

Our feelings about daily requirements don’t determine their worth. What God says about them does. Perhaps it’s not really the daily requirements in and of themselves that are nearly as important as our faithful discipline and trust that God knows how to lead well, even when we don’t understand.

Of course, we need to discern whether God is determining daily requirements, we are following tradition that no longer applies, or we are following people who we might respect and to whom the requirements might have made sense for them personally at some point but doesn’t determine our own faithful obedience.

Discernment is always key. Following isn’t about an established pattern but a firm faithfulness, whether God keeps our routine the same but grows us through it or changes our routine but reveals His own and our faithfulness through the changes.

Discernment is a daily requirement.

Following Well

They answered Joshua, “Everything you have commanded us we will do, and everywhere you send us we will go.” (Joshua 1:16BeStrong_iphone_640x960)

When or for whom are we willing to go this far, claiming “everything” and “everywhere” for someone? The next verse reminds us of Joshua’s reliable authority because of his faithful obedience to God as he led. But Joshua was still human. And no matter how much we want to claim godliness in a leader we follow, we need to think about what we’re doing and where we’re going. We ultimately need to trust God the most, and sometimes that will involve following people He’s placed in leadership in our lives. Sometimes that will mean boldly and respectfully disagreeing.

We need to be careful of whom we declare as our fearless leader “no matter what.” We can easily find examples in our current political elections. We may choose to follow a candidate because of an issue or precedent, to fight for an underdog, to prove a point, or to jump on a bandwagon. None of those reasons are sufficient. When you find yourself trying to justify a stance, take a step back. You might be on shakier ground than you care to admit. You might claim allegiance (or rejection, which is still a type of allegiance) for the wrong reasons and with the wrong attitude.

It all takes discernment. Each step we take as we follow, lead, speak, listen, persuade, consider, and change.

What If We Offered a “Gap Year” to Everyone?

csm_Gap-Year-Karlshochschule_753e1fb657Have you heard of a gap year? It’s a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between high school and college, vocational school, or military service. President Obama’s daughter’s gap year announcement has recently made the news. In her case, I think it’s a good idea. She already faces a year of changes ahead, as her dad leaves office and the entire family moves and readjusts. Plus, she’s lived the past (at least) eight years in the spotlight. Not that she won’t have a spotlight on her once her dad’s out of office, but perhaps it will be just a little less after someone else is Commander-in-Chief.

But for those of us who grew up in the “push forward and work hard and don’t stop or you’re a slacker” era, a gap year is hard to swallow. Are these kids lazy?

Maybe a few are, but I think that’s a dangerous assumption to make. To be honest, not everyone knows what they want to do beyond high school. Or they know they have a long road ahead and want some prep time before diving into adulthood. Looking back, we might be able to say high school was easy and should be counted as a “gap” before real life, but for those in the middle of it or pushing through to the end, it can be stressful and demanding. Maybe some people choosing a gap year are not being lazy but smart, practical, and discerning.

Let’s be honest. There are gaps in all of our lives. Some we need, and some we don’t. Some we see, and some we don’t. We often see gaps in others. There are gaps between goals and where we are, our goals and reality. But isn’t that normal? When we’re working toward something, doesn’t that assume we’re not quite there?

Christians are often accused of being hypocritical, and they blame others of the same thing. What if we actually invited others into the gap between our goals and reality instead of pointing to hypocrisy? What if we tried to see the wisdom, practicality, discernment, and humility in the gap instead of the fault?

Theological Antivirus Software

true-falseWhat happens when we have our theological antivirus software running in the background of our lives?

I’m not talking about discernment, based in God’s truth. I’m referring to the antivirus software we’ve developed based on our own theology. No matter how pure our search for God’s truth is, we have some misunderstandings and misapplications. We may say we only stand firmly when God stands firmly and allow freedom or silence when He does, but none of us are capable of completely living His will with no bias. We have limited understanding. We have baggage. We need to be honest and look at the breadth of differences among God’s people and know that none of us are completely correct. None of us has the corner market on all things God and all things truth.

All of us have to be humble enough to consider we might be wrong about something. If we’re not, that theological antivirus software detects and kicks some things out of our consideration that we need to see, filter, and search for truth. We can trust God to help. He’s a lot more dependable than we are.