Category Archives: discernment

Seeing Clearly

I Corinthians 13:12 (NLT) “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely.”



This world is so confusing. As I’m writing this, the United States is in the midst of our Presidential election season. With all of the things said, the promises made, and the outlandish behavior from candidates and voters alike, it’s hard to know what to believe about anything anymore. What’s right? Who’s right?

If there’s one thing that God’s Word does, it’s bring clarity to a foggy world. The Christian worldview doesn’t make all things known or completely understood, but it helps to know that all things have their purpose and that we’re promised that one day we will understand it all. One day all of this mess will make sense.

I’m big on reading Bible passages in context because sometimes we have the habit of making something mean something other than what was intended. If you and I will read this Scripture from 1 Corinthians in its proper context, we’ll see a theme surrounding it. Love. So, to borrow a question posed famously by Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?”

Love, according to the Apostle Paul, is the glue that holds everything else together. It’s the thing that makes everything else make sense. If we do all of the things religion requires, but we don’t love, we’ve missed the whole point. Even our political choices should be motivated out of love. What does that look like? I’m going to be honest, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that the primary catalysts for all Christians to act are faith, hope, and love. If the greatest of them is love, we should be looking at the world through that scope. How would our actions be different if we saw that more clearly?

Stick with what God says is good

1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

A brief survey of American Christianity can easily lead one to get pretty confused. If someone had never heard of Christianity before and then took a look at our churches, I’m not sure what they’d conclude about us. What do we believe? What is good to do and what isn’t?

It’s amazing how varied local churches and denominations can be when there’s but one Bible from which to get guidance. There’s one Spirit to lead us and it’s in fact one God in whom we all claim to believe and follow.

But some don’t even listen to God. They don’t consider the Bible a guide at all, let alone an authoritative one. Some will follow teachers who sound good and say things that people want to hear. Some will come up with silly practices and even require believers to abstain from things that God has said are good. They’ll make up rules that God never laid out and claim they’re from Him. They’ll cause confusion and even make up doctrine that goes in direct opposition to what God has taught through His Word. But people will follow.

We’re in confusing times. There is an abundance of religion and it all gets mixed up at times. That’s why God gave us His Word, to keep us grounded. He knew that people would go astray and that the only way to preserve what’s right is to put it in writing. Every single church or denomination that strays from God begins by lowering their view of His book. It’s true for individuals as well. Show me someone who used to be a strong believer that has gone away, and I’ll show you someone who began to view the Bible as less than God’s inerrant Word.

If you want to remain strong in your faith, it’s best to remain close to God by staying in communication with Him. Speak to Him in prayer at all times, and listen to Him in His Word. Stick to what He says is right.

Test the spirits

1 John 4:1-6   Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

In a world that’s full of so much spiritual talk, how can we know who to believe?  The truth is, a lot of Christians will believe anything that comes from someone claiming to be a Christian.  Just walk into a Christian bookstore and take a look around.  You’ll find books ranging all across the spectrum, many contradicting each other.  But how do we know what is right?

The Bible gives one criteria to follow when testing the spirits of the world.  Whether we’re listening to the philosophy of Oprah or Osteen, MacArthur or Bell, the one question is this:  Do they claim that Jesus is God who came in the flesh?  That’s the most important question.  People may disagree on some doctrines or on some practices, but the one thing that makes a belief system something other than Christianity is their view of Christ.

You’ll see some “denominations” in the world that sound very Christian yet deny that Jesus was God in the flesh.  Simply put, that means they’re not Christian.  Test the beliefs of any religious organization on this one thing.  If they deny Christ, flee and never return.  Jesus is God who came to earth as a man, shed His blood and gave His life for the forgiveness of sins, and then He resurrected from the dead and ascended back into heaven where He now reigns.  Upon that truth our entire existence revolves.  Without it, there is not hope.  Without that one belief, there is not Christianity.

Be encouraged

Ephesians 6:21-22 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

We all need people in our lives who we can talk to and who we can expect to encourage us. Without people like this, times can get very tough. We start to believe lies about ourselves and we need someone to pull us out of that funk.

With all this talk of spiritual warfare in Ephesians, it’s important to note that not everything that feels like attack is actually opposition from the enemy. I’m quick to blame spiritual attack when sometimes I’m being disciplined by God. He disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6, Proverbs 3:12, Revelation 3:19). Sometimes it’s discipline that comes as a result of our sin, and sometimes He’s just conforming us into who He wants us to be.

I’m thankful for the brothers in Christ that I can turn to that help me to realize when I’m in a season of discipline and pruning and when I really need prayer against spiritual opposition. It’s encouraging to hear from someone that he has the same struggles and I’m not alone. It’s also highly encouraging to hear an uplifting and wise correction when I’m thinking about giving up.

Do you have people like this around you? If not, it’s highly recommended that you find someone from among the body of believers who can speak into your life. Be encouraged.

Godless: Part 3

Romans 1:26-27 “That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

We, as Christians, sometimes live in glass houses, throwing stones. We want everyone to honor God and we want every person to respect the sanctity of marriage according to the Bible. We want laws passed and we want our nation to reflect our Christian faith. Don’t agree with us? We’re going to threaten you with the wrath of God and tell you that you’re going to burn in hell. There’s just one problem though. We live in a pretty godless nation that simply doesn’t believe in hell, let alone fear God’s wrath. Most importantly, they don’t know Christ.

It says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” Our body is a holy temple, but without Christ it’s more like an empty tomb. We hold people to a standard that is impossible to achieve without a life that is submitted to Christ. Bottom line is, without Christ, how can we expect anyone to honor God, let alone their bodies?

So, why do we get so hung up on this one issue? This could be the subject of a debate that could go on forever, but let me just give you one thing. I think what we see here is a reflection of our sinful nature and it’s painful. We don’t want to look at it. We would rather have a happy little life, in a happy little church, where our families and loved ones aren’t exposed to the sins of the world. That, my friends, is not the Gospel.

Christ came so that we, who are abandoned to our sinful nature, might be redeemed. Every single one of us, separated from God, will give in to our shameful desires. Every single one of us without Christ’s renewing would burn with lust that would consume us.

This is every persons nature, whether Christian or pagan. Without Christ, we are abandoned to our own depravity. But Christ is patient and tolerant with us, being so kind that we might turn from our sin. When we submitted our lives to Christ, we had our sins covered by His wonderful grace and our hearts transformed by His mercy touch of love. We should want nothing more than to see every person on earth surrender their lives to Christ.

And this is the heart of the matter. I don’t want you to come away from this thinking that I’m trying to get you to accept alternative lifestyles or to compromise the scriptures. What I’m trying to say is that a world full of lost people are going to act like a world full of lost people. We have no power to overcome our weaknesses without the power of Christ living in us, how can we expect that from anyone else? Before our lives in Christ, we were all in the same boat as those we throw stones at. It’s like a convicted murder facing the death penalty, who received a reprieve undeservingly, turning to the next guy in line and telling him he deserves to burn for what he did.

We need to stop trying to make everyone act like Christians and start bringing them to the cross. We’ll never be able to change people on our own, no matter what laws we pass or how much we protest. The only way anyone is going to change is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Period. End of Story.

Godless: Part 2

Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” 

At some point in our life we have heard someone say “If there is a God, why does He allow such evil to take place in the world.” The truth is because that’s what’s in our hearts and that is what we seek. God longs for us to seek after Him the way He seeks after us. He longs for us to be like Him and to value the things He values. Things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. But none of us do, not one of us. We seek out the lusts of our hearts. We are carnal, materialistic, power hungry, envious, creatures who worship and serve creation rather than the Creator. So why does God allow us to live this way? Because He gave us free will.

God created us in His image with our own will and He will not force His upon us. So when we choose things that God detests, when we put things He created over Him, He allows us too. God didn’t design us to be robots, and as much as He loves us, He gives us up to what our hearts desire.

The world has been tricked into thinking that we are gods and the masters of our own destiny. And it will hold on to this lie and continue to follow this path no matter how destructive it gets, denying Christ and the salvation that is available to all that believe. Why? Jesus said in John 3:19 “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This was all our story at one point. We are a fallen race that doesn’t seek after God, but our own selfish desires. But God so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. The world thinks that Christ came to condemn us for what we are, but those of us who walk with The Lord know that He came to save us from what we are. Sinners who are far from God and who deserve the prize of our endeavors, which is death. This is why it’s so important to let our light shine. Their might be somebody who spent their entire life believing a lie, huddled in darkness, who might see the light of Christ shining through our lives.

Godless: Part I

Romans 1:18-23 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

The world has no excuse. The evidence of God’s divinity and His eternal glory surround us in all of creation. It cries out from every corner of the earth and as this verse says, “it has been made plain to us.” So why doesn’t the world recognize God for who He is and come to repentance to be made right with Him? This is the first of a four part devotion I’m writing entitled “Godless” in which we will dive in to Romans 1:18-32.

The world just doesn’t seem right does it? The more I mature in my faith, the more this becomes apparent. I don’t know about you, but many times I feel like a foreigner in a strange land. Why is this? The Bible says in Romans 8:23 that “we believers also groan” and that “we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.”

As a believer in the Gospel of Christ, we have had our sins forgiven and our names written in the Lambs Book of Life, but we have to live out our salvation here on earth. We long to leave this earthly shell, to be released from our flesh, and join our Father in Heaven. We long to leave this world that is so selfish and eaten up with greed, envy, and ambition. A world that covets every kind of evil and harbors such atrocities that it makes our hearts sink. It’s easy to see why we would want to leave this world, but while we are here, we do have a mission.

We have to carry the good news of the Gospel into this dark, godless place we call the earth. A place where men and women, through the darkness of their hearts, have replaced divinity with obscenity. They have traded immortality for mortality and worship things that will pass away. And why do they seek such things? Because, like everyone of us at one point in our life, we let our pride rule us.

I love how verse 22 says “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Everyone wants to be right. Everyone wants to be in control. We don’t want to be made to feel like we’re wrong or that we need to do anything to be made right. It’s the fruit of pride, the original sin. This is why the Gospel at first offends us and stings us at our core. No one in this world is without sin and we all at one time were ungodly, unrighteous, suppressors of the truth.

Once we accepted Christ as our savior and our relationship with our Father in Heaven was restored, we started to filter things through God’s perspective. For example, do you ever notice that the more you get to know God and His truth, the more foolish the wise and influential people of the world become? But to those who hearts are dark, we are the fools, following ancients myths and senseless traditions. So why do we even try? How can these people be even be reached?

They all worship something. Whether it’s fame, power, money, religion tailored to their lifestyle, or their own wisdom, they all bow down to something. They are trying to fill a hole that can only be filled by the love of Christ. They busily look inward for an answer that they will never find. The hope lies in the fact that God has made Himself plain to them and His divine attributes can be clearly perceived. What you need to do now is offend them. Offend them with the Gospel that ultimately has the power to save them. Rattle their world and challenge everything they know about life. Let the light of Christ that fills you shine into their darkness.

Joking aside, let’s give thanks

Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Have you ever been around someone who said or did something that just seemed really out of place for who they are or what they are? For instance, a Catholic nun smoking a cigar while drinking a shot of whisky would seem different from what’s expected.

Followers of Jesus are held to a higher standard of conduct when it comes to things that come out of our mouths. Filthy talk, dirty jokes, or crudeness are just out of place among believers. Sometimes we’ll have to be in situations around other people who conduct themselves in such a way, especially if we hope to lead them to Christ, but we need not get in on the dirty jokes.

It’s so tempting, though, to join in when people are having a good time and making inappropriate comments; isn’t it? The choice we end up having to make in such situations is to be what God has called us to be rather than being popular among the people making the jokes. It can be a tough move to make, but it’s always worth it to obey the Lord.

There are several reasons to keep our talk clean, and we won’t go into all of them, but one is that we have so much to be thankful for that we have better ways to spend our time than wallowing in filth. Instead of making crude jokes, give thanks to God. Instead of bringing others down, life them up. The family of God in Jesus Christ is set apart. Our words (or lack thereof) should make that apparent.

The importance of words

Our small group is doing an excellent study by Rick Warren, and our latest installment discussed truthfulness, forgiveness and patience. All hard things. All important things.

 

We all have the power to emotionally debilitate someone with our words; they are immensely powerful. We also have the power of providing infinite healing to others with the words that we choose.

 

I think that many people have been in a situation of uncomfortable confrontation. Sometimes warranted, sometimes not. At times, feelings of defensiveness, being misunderstood and hurt, and betrayal as the realization that the confronter has discussed your faults with others may abound.

 

The Bible calls us to care enough about others that confront one another when a person has a stronghold of sin in their life. In my experience, this is very difficult. We often imagine a twosome of classic dogooders, rightfully confronting in love, but bracing for the confrontee’s escape from their grasp. We pretend like it’s black and white, and that we ourselves can manage the situation with a co-confronter, and maybe a little elbow grease. We don’t like to do it, but bygolly, we’ve got to because the Bible says to do so. Why would damage come to the relationship if we are Biblical about our approach?

 

But what if we are wrong? What if the Bible is calling us for a different level of confrontation?

Ephesians 4:29 ESV 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Please consider to do the following, when the burden to confront a friend arises:

 

Remember the effort. Validate that person for the effort and the cost that has been required in their situation and in their life. Give credit where credit is due within confrontation and outside of confrontation. Leave your pride at the door. Really. Every person has value- find it and pierce them with it. Even if it hurts you to do so.

 

Remember the emotion. A childhood victim of abuse must still suffer the consequence of any adult crimes that they commit. This is no excuse. But their experiences and their emotions are valid. Don’t forget to validate them. When we don’t validate emotion, we give people no other option than to defend themselves. When we don’t recognize their feelings, we slay them with judgement. The consequence must still come, and the confrontation must still come, but the circumstances are valid.

 

Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

 

Recognize the exhaustion. A person who is treating an area of their life or another, is often hopeless and tired. Recognize it, name it, and put it away. The runner needs validation of the exhaustion of the race, even if they have lost their way. Validate, and help them to find the right path.

 

 

Validate the effort, validate the emotion, allow the hurt or pain to do the backstroke around the room, but don’t make excuses for the behavior.

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; … 

A loving relationship requires much, but I encourage everyone to remember that it is difficult to confront in love and truth, if your words and actions don’t represent words and truth. When confrontation isn’t necessary, I continue to believe in the need to validate the effort, exhaustion, emotion and validate. The times in which we lay down our pride and get uncomfortable about reality may just be the times in which it is the most important. If we give credit where credit is due with our words in good times, then we will be heard when times are bad. If a person is recognized and knows that they are appreciated and heard, then they will likely be less likely to feel under appreciated, unheard or slayed when a confrontation arises. If we practice removing the layer of pride that we take everywhere with us, then the confrontation will feel more natural to both parties.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:1-20 ESV 

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. …

In the knowledge of Him

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

We’d all like to know God a little better; wouldn’t we? Who can say that they’d prefer to be in the dark about who the Father is and what He has in store? No, most of us would like to hear from Him and know what He has to say to us. We expect it even, because God does speak.

We can only truly know Him as He reveals himself to us. He makes himself known as we grow closer to Him, helping us to better understand His character, His nature, His love, and His Fatherhood over us. The more intimately we become acquainted with the Lord, the more He allows us to know Him. Kind of like in our human relationships.

The difference, of course, is that the Father knows perfectly well what exactly to reveal to us at any given time. What we’re not ready for, we don’t know yet. The knowledge we’ve been entrusted with testifies to our growing relationships with Him.

Contrary to popular opinion, God wants to be known. He wants to show us who He is, He wants us to grow closer to Him. He wants His children to be enlightened. Seek Him and you will find Him.