Posts Tagged ‘discernment’

Adages, quotes, sayings, proverbs abound: “You get what you pay for;” “You made your bed now lie in it;” or simply, “Face the music.” On and on, we are reminded about the consequences of our actions. And still history repeats itself again and again. At least, mine does.

Proverbs 11:27
Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it.

I’m not saying that I go around looking for trouble necessarily, and yet, I have played very close to the fire and somehow managed to be surprised when I got burned. Of course, we all do it to some degree or another.

Just last night, my son was wisecracking about the messes he gets himself into when he drinks too much. Now, one would think the obvious solution would smack him up along side his head but that is not the case. Was I any different? At his age, I wrapped by head around a toilet more times than I’d like to admit and I nursed horrible hangovers and regretted many things I blurted out to perfect strangers. Duh!

There is a balance point between knowledge, experience, and self-control. Once discovered, like finding the focus point on a balance beam or high wire, it becomes a small wisdom.

I know about consequences. I have experience with consequences. And yet, until I make the better choice before consequences kick in, knowledge & experience have little effect. It’s truly a matter of practice before wisdom becomes a part of character, a part of the soul.

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In today’s world, unless one participates in a charismatic denomination, the idea of the prophetic smacks of the National Enquirer. So, if most people don’t believe in prophecy, isn’t that already contempt? How does a prophet gain credibility?

I Thessalonians 5:20-22
. . . do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

Actually, the scriptures speak of the importance of testing what is said by a prophet. All the way back in the Old Testament, it was written, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken.” [Deut 18:22a] This appears to be a straightforward test of a prophecy, if it comes to pass, it’s a true prophecy. Of course, that doesn’t help much in the moment, when a prophecy is uttered.

It’s hard to know, actually. I have experienced a kind of fluttering within my personal spirit upon occasion, a sense of truth being spoken, a type of corroboration or affirmation. But, that’s certainly less than definitive. And so, if the prophecy is important, it’s reasonable to consider putting the words to the test.

But I will say right here, testing a prophecy is about as effective as trusting internal flutterings alone. Oh, I suppose one could compare the prophecy to what is already known and determine if it’s sound and grounded in truth. However, it’s in my mind that a genuine prophecy is outside the normal range of reason. Otherwise, it would just be something the smart folks around us could figure out, they’d be able to predict. You know, those people who love statistics and computers, our weathermen and futurists.

Perhaps the key word here is not the test but the attitude? A prophetic utterance viewed with contempt will rarely find root.

I did check the Greek, as best I am able, and there is a some confusion as to whether the “testing” phrase is about the prophecies or about everything else, that is determining what is good and right vs. what is not. So, perhaps we aren’t supposed to test prophecies alone, but test the world around us.

Others will say that prophecies are not merely predictive, but rather some type of “edification or encouragement.” I think that’s pretty lame. There’s not much danger in doing that, is there? What is there to disregard or disdain?

No, I think it’s all the phrases [20-22] together that have meaning: I cannot hear truth of any kind if I have closed myself off through contempt, either for the speaker or the message. If I have made a decision before the time, then there is no possibility I will hear anything new. In other words, “we hear what we want to hear.”

Also, once we have heard something (anything), we shouldn’t act or react immediately, but let it settle inside. Some testing can be done by comparing the message with what is known, but for what is unknown, it takes a united exploration of those words and ideas with the Holy Spirit. And finally, out of everything spoken, we must hold fast to “good” and truth: once we accept the truth of a prophecy, then we must not let it go. From there comes strength to “avoid evil.”

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Prayers are scattered throughout Paul’s writings and many are often repeated as blessings, but never has a prayer touched me as deeply as this one did today. With three elements, my way can be transformed: love, knowledge, and insight.

Philippians 1:9
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, . . .

If I can approach my days with love, literally reach out to others with an authentic heart, those actions become a framework within which knowledge and discernment can grow and become strong. I cannot expect to have knowledge of the human soul without love. That kind of understanding comes through relationship. To know someone is to encounter the sacred core.

Every day presents me with choices. I make these decisions based on my understanding of the person or the circumstances. There are good choices and there are the “best” choices. Paul contends here that love, knowledge and depth of insight are essential to discerning the very best path.

Today, we begin the Advent season when we enter a time of anticipation, a “divine interruption” of our regular lives. It’s a time of beginnings. What better way to begin that to set the heart toward abounding love.

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I’ve been watching the controversy unfold over health care reform in our country and the division, not only marches through party lines now, but even people of faith are finding themselves on opposite sides of “the aisle.” We must learn to disagree without “harsh judgments” of the other person.

Romans 14:1
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

There will always be “disputable matters” in our culture. We must take care, I think, to avoid condemnation of those with whom we disagree. We can participate in the political process by contacting and engaging our elected “authorities,” and we can work toward electing those we prefer, but we should not be harsh and critical with one another. There is no point.

Usually what happens is that we follow a particular pundit, someone we grow to trust, and as we listen to his/her take on a controversial subject we go along, “yes,” we think, “that sounds right.” And off we go repeating what we heard and even standing rigid on the ideas of another. But guess what? People are doing that on both sides of the equation.

I remember when my children were younger and we would pray with them before a sports game that God would give them victory. But then, one day, Kip asked me, “Does the other team pray too?” And there you have it. Yes, they do. They are also praying for victory. Who will win? God ultimately sorts these things out.

There are no Republicans or Democrats or Communists or Tea Parties in heaven. God is the great equalizer.

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John 1:1-2
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

It’s a strange time to have a beginning, the middle of May, but that’s just how it has worked out. Last year, I had just finished facilitating the Seeking Him bible study and felt convicted to dedicate myself to the discipline of a daily devotion time. I have not been perfect, but I have also not given up my quest, which for me, is all good!

Today is the beginning of my second year and I consider the importance of beginning with the Word. He is my source and my strength. He is the One with whom I want a primary relationship. It is in Him I hope and trust.

Last year my theme was based on Ps 25:1, “To You O Lord I lift up my soul.” But this year, I believe I will be pursuing discernment (…And this is my prayer: that [my] love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that [I] may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ… (Philippians 1:9-10).

May the meditations continue in this light and my thanks to those who share this journey with me.

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Luke 10:41-42
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Not every decision we make is between good and evil. Sometimes, we must choose between good and better. These decisions are by far the more difficult ones. These decisions take discernment, wisdom, and trust. I know the trap for me has been to “do it all” and now, I realize that is the result of not “choosing the better part.” I don’t want to miss anything. I can see this habit even in the small things of life like packing for a trip and since I can’t decide what I will wear, I take it all, putting off that decision until later. Today, I know, there will be decisions before me and I ask God, right now, guide me, that I might choose well, for choose I must.

For more about Mary and Martha and the better part, see Wisdom Seekers discussions on the book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

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From the pastor’s blog today, we are encouraged to beware of false prophets. This is quite the challenge in today’s world. These televangelists with their jets and fancy homes… how can we really know? We are told to “know them by their fruits” … but in a modern world, the fruits can be manufactured to look righteous. It’s frightening really.

I am reminded of another scripture, Mark 9:33-39, when the disciples were concerned about a man “driving out demons” in Jesus’ name. They had commanded the man to stop since he was not one of them. But, in the end, Jesus tolerated this abuse of his name and his power for the good it was doing. Another scripture, Matthew 13:24-29, the parable of the weeds seems appropriate here, for the weeds grew with the wheat and were not pulled out while still growing. Instead, the master said to wait until the harvest and then they would be collected and burned separately.

I used to worry and struggle a great deal with differentiating who is righteous and who is not… who is “godly” and who is not. In some cases, I thought their fruits were also good, so who could tell?

In the end, I had to give the ultimate discernment back to the Lord. All I can do is prayerfully place this person and my relationship to him or her on the altar of the Lord. If I am duped by a false prophet, then I trust God will redeem the loss. If God reveals the duplicity ahead of time, then I pray for His power to simply walk away. Sometimes, I have seen my interest in a particular teaching or person or style of worship simply falls away and as I look back on these times, I know it was the Lord protecting me from false teachings and people. Thanks be to God.

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