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.

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.

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.

When Faith is a Mystery

Faith can be a mystery to us as we struggle with the deeper questions and the more daunting challenges that we can face. It’s not so much the question of its existence. After all, most who abide in it understand that “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Rather, it’s a question of the why and how, finding ourselves wondering what possible good could come out of this even as we try to hold fast to the hope that we need.

Sometimes we don’t easily or quickly find the answers we need. Sometimes it feels as if we push a little too hard, trying to get to where we want to be, to where we feel like we need to be. We battle with these ideas and these thoughts that we just can’t seem to escape telling us something needs to be different, trying so hard to convince ourselves that these things too shall pass, but not entirely sure when or even if they ever really will.

It’s in these times that we struggle, not necessarily with the existence of God, but in what grand scheme, what grand design He has for us. We just don’t necessarily know. We cling to the promises that He has made, the promise that He will never fail us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5) or that if we need answers that He will give them to us. (James 1:5) We pray with that sincere heart, searching for the purpose and the meaning we are in such desperate need of and it seems like it is far removed from our lives.

What we have to remember is that God, He never promised us that the road we are going to go down was going to be an easy one, nor does He promise us easy answers or quick fixes. Sometimes we are told that our Heavenly Father, He just wants us to be happy. The truth is He does, there is little question of that. The redeeming sacrifice of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the perfect example of that. Yet, He wants us to be happy for the right reasons and the right times, knowing that He has a time for all things. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) This is the way that He ensures that we are as He wills, never letting anything touch us that is more than we can handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Though the answers and the reasons may not be clearly apparent at first, this is why Christ, our blessed and good Shepherd, is there for us. He is there not just as the great and wondrous deliverance for our sins, but also to take upon Himself the yoke of our burdens, giving us the rest, hope and peace that we so need during the trials that we must face during this existence. (Matthew 11:28-29)

God’s path, and His design may not be the simplest or the easiest. It may, at times, even go beyond our ability to understand or comprehend as we travel it. That’s okay. Not all things are meant to be revealed right then or there, regardless of the challenges it may create. Sometimes, by knowing at that very moment it would even create a greater challenge to the spirit and to the soul that we just find ourselves unable to wrap our heads around, because not only did we not need to know right then, we just aren’t capable of knowing right then and there. Sometimes we need time to travel down that path to give us what we need to grow, to be, to find ourselves before the answers make any sort of sense to us.

Sometimes we need to let go of the how and the why and let ourselves be just transcend it. We need not to think of faith as a mystery but as a journey through the deeper places within ourselves, knowing that the trials we face and the adversities that are there are nothing more than markers on a road towards a greater end for our lives. We grow when we learn to let go, and we learn that though the moments may be hard, all of them weave together to create a greater picture that we are meant to see with time and space.

Let these moments pass through you, but don’t let their lessons pass by you as you search for meaning in them. In the end they will tell you of a grander, greater vision that God, in His infinite love has for you. You just have to let it.