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.

Justice

cj_istock_000006259503largeThe Lord rises to argue the case and stands to judge the people. The Lord brings this charge…(Isaiah 3:13-14a)

God has multiple roles in justice, because He is justice. We most often declare God as judge. Often it’s not a positive declaration: “Don’t worry. God will ultimately judge him!” In essence, we’re already judging someone and declaring God will certainly agree and handle the person with as much harshness as we want.

Good thing we don’t always know how God deals with someone. He deals in both justice and grace, righteousness and compassion, judgment and mercy.

And He isn’t just the final judge. He brings charges and argues the case, too. Because ultimately, they’re His standards. We can make all the laws we want and hold people accountable according to them. There are consequences on earth, as there should be. God created us for eternity, and time on earth is part of it. But there is a broader perspective than what we see. And perhaps narrower in some ways.

We don’t understand it all, but we can pursue truth even in our areas of uncertainties. We can invite correction into our lives. We can seek wisdom, then live it out. We can trust Him – for today and eternity.

Turning Away and Toward

Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He will do what has already been done. And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. (Ecclesiastes 2:13-14)

Then.

Turn.

Realize.

Such important words. We need to refuse to get stuck. Even when things are the same and seem futile, we don’t need to get stuck. We can consider another perspective, use another filter, apply wisdom. We can realize the significance (or insignificance) of something within a broader context.

Today is “then.” Today is a time for turning and realizing. Don’t get stuck in wondering if you’re ready. Consider wisdom and walk with light.

How to Build a House

efab7e03ee9194b2ee896c635a79ce35A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

I love this imagery.

I’m not a house builder. I don’t want to be faced with all the big and small decisions that need to be made. So many details. So much to consider. So much as stake.

But I realize I’ve built a home, not all by myself. My husband helped. God helped even more. We made big and small decisions: when and how to rely on God from the foundation to details of decorations. He helped determine the memories we filled our rooms and years with. We tried some things on our own and learned how disastrous that can be. We got off track, then back on track – several times. We did our best. Or rather, we tried to give God our best, because He always gives us His.

Wisdom, understanding, knowledge. The best building materials of any home.

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.

At The Crossroads

crossroads-confusing-sign-595x335Doesn’t Wisdom call out?
Doesn’t Understanding make her voice heard?
At the heights overlooking the road,
at the crossroads, she takes her stand. (Proverbs 8:1-2)

We may not be clear at all times, but the crossroads are revealing. We are faced with options. Whether we are under pressure or have time to process, gray separates into black and white. We know we need to take a step. We may not be completely certain of which way to go, but we stand up, turn, gaze forward, and walk.

With Wisdom and Understanding, we have courage and assurance. Even when we misstep, Wisdom and Understanding correct us. God knows. He helps. He guides.

Without Him, the crossroads are disorienting.

With Him, we proceed in faith.

The Mentoring Mess

lets-do-life-together-digital-hand-letteringWe all need each other, but it can be difficult to find someone who truly invests in our lives. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to set aside time to authentically invest in someone else’s life.

I wonder sometimes if we make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Are we too particular? Using wisdom in guiding us to the right people is important, but I wonder sometimes if we get too picky. Do we overlook people as possible mentors (or mentees) because of the differences between us? Or perhaps our self-doubt or insecurities get in the way. We don’t want to make the first move in case it’s the wrong move, or the first time we meet doesn’t work out well, and we give up too soon.

Are we too programmed? Do we feel the need for someone to set up mentoring for us? Perhaps we experienced mentoring done really well through a particular program or ministry, and we simply want someone to duplicate the same experience for us. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, it just might be. Programs and ministries can help with connections, but it takes personal sacrifice and effort to keep them going. That’s up to you.

Are we too unwilling? We can try to justify our unwillingness by claiming we’re super busy, not the right fit, or a myriad of other excuses, but perhaps we’re simply not willing to give what is needed to establish and maintain mentoring relationships.

Mentoring puts us in a vulnerable position, whether we are giving or receiving. We have to expose our lives to others. That’s easy for some of us and incredibly difficult for others. Mentoring seems so elusive for some yet seems to come naturally to others. That’s frustrating or exhilarating, depending on the side you fall.

No matter what, mentoring is not easy. It’s messy, because it involves people sharing life with each other. That includes everyday situations, crises, and celebrations. Sometimes it feels as if we’re coasting down a hill as we ride bikes on a beautiful day. It is almost effortless. Other times, we get worn out as we struggle to make it up a steep hill of challenges. Both are part of the journey.

Both make mentoring worthwhile.

Truth be told, mentoring is really much simpler than we make it. We want it to be well-defined, because that makes sense to us. We think mentoring is a relationship between two women (or men), usually one older and one younger, where the older woman imparts wisdom into the younger woman. It is so much more than that. Often, the women are close in age. They both feel they get benefits out of the relationship; in fact, you will hear many say they get the best end of the relationship, that they feel as if they receive way more than they give.

We all need others. We need to find partners to help us through the relational, spiritual, emotional, and practical ups and downs of life. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate mentor, but God gifts us with community, people who surround us to cheer us on and challenge us. And we surround others. If we’re honest, at all times, we are being mentored and are mentoring. We need to be intentional about both. We need to recognize that others are not perfect, just as we aren’t. Other will let us down, just as we do to them. Relationships require sacrifice of time and energy, but God is the one who gives both, so it’s best to spend them His way anyway.

How can you find and maintain mentoring relationships?

  • Pay attention. Set aside your assumptions and open your eyes and heart to the opportunities God is placing in front of you. Relationships often begin with eye contact and a brief exchange of words. You don’t have to instantly decide how deep the relationship will go or how long it will last.
  • Persevere. Just because you hit a bump in the road doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. Be patient and diligent. Put in effort and be humble through the process.
  • Stay healthy. The best thing you can do for any relationship is to be the healthiest you can be. Determine to grow spiritually each step of the way. You might find you need to move on from a relationship. Yet you might find God sharpens you through one you’d rather set aside. Trust Him to lead the way.
  • Transition through seasons. Just because a relationship works well for a while doesn’t mean it will remain in your life forever. Growth requires changes. Saying goodbye (and saying hello) takes courage. It’s difficult. Yet it’s essential to healthy spiritual growth. Again, let God lead.
  • Accept the mess, but don’t be content to stay in it. Set aside your idealism about relationships. Know they will be messy. Be willing to work through the mess, admitting everything won’t ever be completely neat and tidy, yet as you work through issues, you can choose to rely on and get closer to God.

Mentoring might be more mess than magic, but when you invite others into your life and authentically invest in each other, the experience will help you grow in unrivaled ways. Give it a try!