Category Archives: Spiritual Guidance

Who would you recommend?

In this new age of consumerism, people are always looking for the best deal.  It’s understandable.  If we’re going to spend our money, we want to insure we’re getting the greatest value for our buck.

Services such as Angie’s List, Yelp, and, offer us a way to hedge our bets before spending our money.

The modern consumer thrives on information. Before making a buying decision, customers have long sought out the opinions and experiences of others to inform themselves as to whether a company is creditable or not. Today, this process is quick, easy, and accessible to anyone with a computer and internet connection.

Consumerism and politics

We are rapidly approaching general elections in November.  Unfortunately there is no service we can pull up on our computer to help with selection of the best candidates.  During this “season” of health pandemics, social crisis, and family challenges, we are in search of individuals who can reverse the problems we’ve experienced in 2020.  All the candidates, locally and nationally, claim to have the best “offer”.  Who would you recommend?

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is presented as an active, compassionate, and obedient Servant who ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of others.  Consequently, this gospel moves quickly to His public ministry where He performs many miracles (there are eighteen).  Jesus used these miracles to demonstrate not only His power but also His compassion.  As I look around at the needs of our city and our nation, service to and compassion for people are characteristics of one who will quickly attend to the problems and trials we face. Such was the case in our study text which is only recorded in Mark’s gospel.

Best qualified

In Mark 7:31-37, Jesus is found in the region of Decapolis by the Sea of Galilee.  A man who is both deaf and speech impaired is brought to him.  They recommended Jesus as the One best qualified for the task at hand.  It isn’t clear whether those seeking Jesus’ help expected healing but they did ask that Jesus “put His hands” on the infirmed man. (v. 32)   Sometimes we come to Jesus in our prayers not knowing what to ask But Jesus, who is omniscient knows exactly what we need (Rom. 8:26-27).

Better than expected

I’m sure the man, unable to hear or speak, was curious as to what was about to happen to him.  It is noted in one commentary, that Jesus in preparing the man for his healing used His own form of sign language:   And He (Jesus) took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue (v. 33). Then Jesus looked to heaven, and sighed, and said to him, “Be opened.” (v. 34)  With one command, both impediments were cured.  The crowd was astonished.

Although Jesus charged the crowds to say nothing about the miracle, they could not help themselves and in their zeal shared the miracle with this observation:  “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak” (v. 37).  To do things well means to do things “excellently”. (1 Cor. 14:17; Gal. 5:7)

Consumerism, the soul, and Jesus

Unfortunately, consumers, as a rule, aren’t very intentional when it comes to matters of the soul.   I don’t know where they go to seek out the opinions and experiences of others to inform themselves.  Where do they go to insure their spiritual needs are addressed excellently?  Where do they go with their fears and anxieties? Who would you recommend?

As believers, we know one thing is sure.  We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who is more than equipped to handle the challenges we face today and tomorrow (Jude 1:25).  He is best qualified to meet our every need—provisionally and spiritually, because “He does all things excellently”.

It is natural for us to expect Jesus “to save us” by doing miracles in our life, like the deaf and dumb man.  And HE DOES.  But Jesus also wants us to know that He can be trusted with the daily events of our life.  Jesus’ grace will provide all we need to manage both our spiritual and temporal needs (Ps. 23:1-3).   Why?  Because He (Jesus) does all things well! (v. 37)

As we prepare for this day and the days ahead, look to the only One we can recommend to see us through these tumultuous and challenging times.  Trust the only One who died for us (John 11:25); who never fails (Is. 55:10-11); who cannot lie (Num. 23:19). Jesus has the power and authority to do “all things” (Matt. 28:18).    Jesus does all things well.

Spiritual Discernment: Then you will know

Spiritual discernment

Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. Hosea 6:3 (NKJV)

How do we become better at discernment?”  We now know that we have the means to be discerning.  We have God’s Word which establishes the standard for truth which is the cornerstone of discernment.  In addition, believers have the Holy Spirit, the very presence of Deity within them to help (John 16:13-15).

Let me be clear to distinguish between personal discernment and the gift of spiritual discernment that is given to certain believers within a Church.  This discernment is available to all believers to assist them in navigating the error traps and poor choices presented in this broken and fallen world.

In Hosea 6:3 the prophet encourages the nation of Israel to “know” and to “pursue” the knowledge of the LORD. The literal translation is this:   “Then shall we know if we follow on to know”. The conjunction, “if” supposes that a certain condition is needed to accomplish the specific task.  In this case, to know the knowledge of God—His mind and His will—one must first “follow on or pursue” Him.  It requires action on pursuer’s part.  Such is the case with the pursuit of discernment; to have it you must be committed to pursuing it.


The pursuit of discernment requires that we know “what we are looking for”.  It is not only “what to choose” but as importantly, we need to know “how to choose”.  This eliminates the need for checklists of “do’s and don’ts”.  How do we “follow on to know”?  How do we increase our spiritual discernment?

Spiritual discernment begins with the desire for it.

Watchman Nee, in his book Spiritual Discernment, puts forth the thought that believers already have within them the ability to discern rightly.  This is possible because of our new nature—the old man is dead and we are now new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Man simply needs to be “trained” to obey the spirit man within him.

In addition the Holy Spirit is gifted to everyone who believes to help us discern correctly.  That is why the unregenerate, natural man, cannot discern the things of God (1 Cor. 2:13-14).  Watchman Nee further contends that the training in discernment begins with the “breaking of man’s self-will”—to bring him into submission so that he will choose God’s way versus his own.  This breaking is accomplished through our trials and tribulations (James 1:2-3) which help to reshape our wills for God’s purposes versus Satan’s and the world’s (Rom. 12:2).

Our intellect cannot help us gain discernment (Prov. 3:5). It is God’s discernment that is needed to “separate, understand, and make known the right choices”.  Nee offers the position that to discern God’s truth, man must die to self in order follow God’s way.  Spiritual discernment starts with our desire for it.   

Spiritual discernment requires BELIEVERS to be THOUGHTFUL and intentional.

In his book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Tim Challies urges believers to be vigil and steadfast in pursuit of discernment.

A lack of discernment leaves Christians unable to protect themselves and others, and allows sin to flood in.  God offers you the cure when he offers you spiritual discernment.  Empowered by His Spirit, you can be equipped to distinguish “light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteous from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics.

It is our responsibility as believers  to test and examine everything that comes into our sphere of influence and insure that it conforms to God’s standard.  This requires that we not only affirm and accept the accuracy and the sufficiency of Scripture but that we, as believers, accept its authority over our life.

Such spiritual conviction requires that we spend quality time with Jesus—receiving His instructions and directions.  It is in our quiet time that we can train our ear to hear His voice above the crowd and do the right things (John 10:27).  This will be critical as the sounds of the world cry out for our attention and for our loyalty.  We will “know in our spirit” when something is “not right” because we have genuine truth provided by God as our standard of excellence.    Spiritual discernment requires believers to be thoughtful and intentional.    

Spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness and excellence of God

I remember when I received my first pearls from my parents.  It was a single strand necklace with matching earrings (non-pierced).  I cherished those pearls because they helped in shaping my new identity as a young woman.  No more “plastic pop beads” (Am I dating myself?)  While the plastic beads were “OK”, the pearls my parents gave me, were “the best.”

Discernment not only helps us identify error but it also helps us to choose God’s best for our lives—the more excellent things in life. Jesus taught this concept in His parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:44-52).  Are believers settling for “OK” when “God’s best” is awaiting them?

Hannah Anderson in All That’s Good:  Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, uses Paul’s final words in Philippians 4:8 to define what is good and excellent.  Recognition of God’s goodness and excellence can assist believers in their development of spiritual discernment.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.  

  • Truth stands under the scrutiny of God’s Word and God’s truth. “Only in the light of truth can we be safe; only in the light of truth can we know what is truly good.”
  • Noble or honorable requires that we respect and regard the life of our fellowman, created in God’s image. “When we fail to honor those whom God honors, we will miss goodness because we lose access to their unique gifts, capacities, and experiences.  As we pursue honor, we become honorable people.”
Justice is more that kind words.
  • Justice requires fairness. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.”   
  • Purity judges things against the standard of God’s holiness and faithfulness—it seeks out deceitfulness and unfaithfulness. “The solution to impurity is not simply abstinence or ignorance; it is to pursue what is pure.”
  • Lovely requires us to seek those things worth being loved. The primary thing in the life of the believer that is “worth loving” is Jesus.  When we consider “things that are lovely” we lift our eyes above this world to the things of heaven (Col. 3:1-2).  “We find goodness binding our hearts to Him, drawing us on, ever pursuing, ever seeking, ever searching until the beauty of the Lord finally rests upon us.”
  • Good report (commendable) deals with “speaking well” and refers to speech that is thoughtful, appropriate, considered, and careful. What we talk about says a lot about who we are.  “We are all curators, collectors, and exhibitors of information.  How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  If we spend our days sharing trivialities, life will be trivial.  If we spend our days focused on fear, life will be filled with anxiety.”  Spend your days talking about good, worthy, glorious things and see your life change.

Spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness and excellence of God.


Gaining spiritual discernment is not only about what we choose but also about how we choose.  It begins with having a true desire to discern—even in the midst of resistance and persecution from the world.

Spiritual discernment requires believers to be thoughtful and intentional—committed to unearthing the truth through the filter of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Lastly, spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness of God including the excellence of His character outlined in His ways and His works.

Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.  Let us pursue spiritual discernment.

Spiritual Discernment: What is It?

What is discernment?  More specifically, what is spiritual discernment? We’ve described it as our error detection system and something that is needed to lighten our darkened eyes.  Today we will explore in greater detail the definition of discernment and how it fits in the life of the believer.

What Is It?

John MacArthur in his book Reckless Faith:  When the Church Loses its Will to Discern, describes discernment as “the ability to understand, interpret, and apply truth skillfully.” Let’s begin our study with this basic definition and how discernment is used in the New and Old Testament.

The Language of Discernment

In the Old Testament (written in Hebrew), there are three (3) key words used to describe discernment.  The first (ben) refers to intervals or spaces placed between different objects. It implies a judgment that is needed in order to make the proper separation. This word is used in an earlier scripture we studied in which Solomon requested from God the ability to judge or make the proper separation between right and wrong.  (1 Kin. 3:9)

The second (bina) translates to mean understanding; it refers to intellectual understanding.  The warning is Proverbs 3:5 to “lean not to you own understanding” highlights the use of this translation of discernment.  Daniel’s ability to understand dreams also illustrates this word in Daniel 10:1.

The final use (tebuna) implies skill or cleverness for determining the right course of action.  In Deuteronomy 32, the central theme is the prophecy of Israel’s future apostasy as a result of their inability to discern the right course of action: “They are a nation void of sense; there is no understanding in them. If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern what the end would be.” (Deut. 32:28-29)

The Greek word for discernment (diakrino) in the New Testament carries similar meanings as in the Old Testament but introduces the concept of making a distinction or judging.  Paul uses this translation in 1 Cor. 2:14-15 as he explains the inability of the “natural man” to accept (or make a distinction between) the things of God and the world because they must be “spiritually discerned”.

Truth:  The Standard for Spiritual Discernment  

Recognizing the various descriptions of discernment, how are we as believers to separate right from wrong?  On what are we to base our understandings?  How do we choose the right course of action?

On what do we base our spiritual discernment?

At the heart of discernment is truth.  That is why the Church and Christians, in general, are concerned with the definition (and decline) of truth in our current society.  Without a standard for moral conduct and behavior, man constructs his own definition of truth which, many times, is influenced by his personal beliefs and individual preferences.

In the absence of a reliable standard, counterfeits fill the void.  These counterfeits deceive, distract, and ultimately destroy those plans God has designed for individuals and for the furtherance of His kingdom (Eph. 2:10).  So how does truth work with discernment?  Truth operates as a “counterfeit detector”.

To Catch a Counterfeiter

One would think (at least I did) that to identify counterfeit money, one need only be trained to look for errors or mistakes on the fake bill.  To the contrary, agents of the government are trained instead to recognize what a genuine bill looks like.  The approach used for distinguishing a genuine bill is summarized in the phrase “touch, tilt, look through, look at”.  In each step, the examiner knows the characteristics of the genuine bill   Thieves are continually at work to improve their counterfeit techniques so the fakes often “change”.  However, the genuine bill never changes—it always the same.

God’s Truth and Discernment

This is also the case with God’s truth (which includes His character)—it never changes (Malachi 3:6).  God’s truth is found in two places—His Word (the Bible) and His Holy Spirit.  These two “truth standards” remain unchanged—regardless of time, circumstance, or social deviations (Heb. 13:8; Isaiah 40:8).  God’s Word and Spirit allows us “to separate truth from error”, providing us a foundation on which “to base our understanding” and equips us “to determine the right course of action.”

When we spend time with God and become familiar with His Word, we will be able to quickly identify His truth and His will for whatever situation we may encounter in our life.  Truth, God’s truth, is the ONLY STANDARD by which spiritual discernment is possible.

Truth or Error

Take a look around the world we live in today. Whose truth would you say is being followed–Satan’s or God’s? It is evident that we live in a broken world.  However, that does not negate our ability to recognize and utilize God’s truth and authority in guiding our choices and lifestyle.  With God’s truth and the Holy Spirit, spiritual discernment is possible.  Without these two, spiritual discernment is impossible (remember 1 Cor. 2:14-15).

When we choose to disregard the authority of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are inviting chaos and disorder into the world.  We become willing participants in Satan’s plans.

Have we, as a nation and Church suppressed the truth in exchange for political influence?  Have we chosen social correctness and financial gain over that which honors God?  Have we exchanged the truth for the lie?  (Rom. 1:18-25)

So what is spiritual discernment?

Spiritual discernment is the ability to recognize and use God’s truth and authority to guide our life.  God’s Word and His Spirit is the “standard for truth” and help to identify error and deception.

Discernment: Light for Darkened Eyes

Image of Discernment text

If you haven’t noticed, In The Word Ministries has dedicated at least one teaching series each year to the general topic of truth.  We’ve delved into truth through series on the whole counsel of God, seeking truth, and the wisdom of God, just to name a few.  And now, in support of  this year’s theme, 20/20 VISION, we are focusing on the topic of discernment.

Why discernment?

So what!  Why should we care about discernment?  Without spiritual discernment we risk “the light within us becoming darkness”.  There are many factors that affect our ability to know truth.  For purposes of this teaching, I’ll share two that immediately necessitates the need to cultivate a spirit of discernment.

Truth redefined  

In the 21st century there is little understanding or agreement as to what truth really is.  As defined in the postmodern world absolute truth does not exist. Supporters of postmodernism deny long-held beliefs and conventions.  They maintain that all viewpoints are equally valid.

Political posturing and social jockeying have taken the pursuit of truth to new levels.  Individuals and organizations utilize misinformation (the unintended sharing of false information) and disinformation (the deliberate creation and sharing of information known to be false) to influence advocacy and individual agendas.   Even institutions once deemed guardians of truth—media, government, business, and non-governmental organizations—are now viewed suspiciously.[1]

[1]  The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report

The Heart wants what the Heart wants

People reject a standard for truth because of their greater desire to do “that which seems right in their own eyes”.  But what is right?

A recent Barna Research study, The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code, found no agreement on the definition of morality today.

What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions? According to a majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience. This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults. Three-quarters of Millennials (74%) agree strongly or somewhat with the statement, “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,” compared to only 38 percent of Elders. And Millennials (31%) are three times more likely than Elders (10%) and twice as likely as Boomers (16%) and Gen-Xers (16%) to strongly agree with the statement.  

People want “what they want” including freedom to choose what fits their preference and life style, even if it means disobedience to God.

The Need for Discernment

Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.    Luke 11:34-35 (RSV)

In our text Jesus teaches the “Parable of the Lighted Lamp” to the Pharisees and the crowd.  Jesus uses the metaphor, the “lamp of the eye” to describe the use of the eye for more than “sight” but also for “light”.   Jesus explains when the “eye is bad”, the problem is not due to a lack of light—but due to a lack of perception or how they see truth.   Even with light, only those with eyes to see will see it.

Discernment is needed to provide “light” within us to contrast error with the goodness of God.  The lack of spiritual discernment is like color-blindness–it may not seem that important initially but its harm become evident when your life depends on it.  Error paints the world, not in terms of black and white, right or wrong, but in dangerous “shades of gray.”  Be careful lest the light in you be darkness.

Spiritual Discernment: A Request for Discernment

Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice.”  1 Kings 3:11 (NKJ)

Discernment, the process of keen insight and good judgment, has always been desired by men as they attempt to successfully execute their duties as leaders, managers, and advisors. Requesting spiritual discernment, on the other hand, is something that requires a fuller understanding of its power and personal responsibility.

In the Old Testament, Daniel depended on spiritual discernment in his role as ruler over the province of Babylon and chief administrator over all the wise men in Babylon.  As Daniel interpreted his vision to King Belshazzar, he acknowledges it was “he (an angel) who told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things.” (Daniel 7:16)   Daniel sought spiritual discernment.  The psalmist asked the Lord to “open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from your law.” (Psalm 119:18) “Opening the eyes” metaphorically described supernatural vision enabled within the psalmist to comprehend the astonishing things God revealed in His Word—that which could not be physically perceived.  The Psalmist prayed for spiritual discernment.

In the New Testament, Paul describes the dilemma of the unregenerate as they attempt to receive spiritual discernment.  “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The unregenerate is denied spiritual discernment.

In our study text (1 King 3:9-14), King Solomon, upon ascension to the throne of Israel, asks the Lord for what he feels is essential in order to serve this great nation.  Here Solomon models for us the key essentials in approaching God and requesting spiritual discernment.

First, Solomon recognized his position as a servant before the Divine Regent of the world (Is. 33:22).  He was retained by God to administer all the functions of government on behalf of God.  Solomon was to be judge, lawgiver, and king.  Secondly, Solomon requested an understanding heart to judge the people.  Solomon was concerned with possessing not only compassion and tenderness for the people but that he would perform his duties with virtue and integrity so that the people would feel they were treated justly, honestly and free from bias.  Finally, Solomon asked for the ability to discern between good and evil.  To discern (shama) is interpreted to mean to perceive or to hear.  More specifically it means to hear in such a way as to give one’s undivided listening attention.  The main idea behind shama is the need to “perceive the message being sent”.  In other words, Solomon is asking that he will hear a word from God to help him distinguish between good and evil.

The Message paraphrase expresses Solomon’s request this way: “Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil.  For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?”  

Because of Solomon’s request for discernment, God honored Him with more than he could have ever imagined (1 Kin. 3:12-14).

To discern good from evil has become more difficult as evil rapidly gains new levels of acceptability each day.  Just listen to the news or read your favorite blog.  People are calling what’s wrong right and what is right as wrong (Is. 5:20-23).   Charles “Chuck” Swindoll, Christian pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher, has noted three troubling changes in our nation that highlight the need for spiritual discernment.

  1. The blurring of the line between right and wrong, truth from error, and between morality and immorality
  2. The growing ignorance of biblical knowledge and the following of Scripture as our moral guide
  3. The intensified embracing of post-modernism and secularism by Christians

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 16

Imagine in your spiritual mind…

  • What this nation would be like if our elected officials asked for understanding to discern justice as they administer their duties?
  • What would our cities look like if people had God-listening hearts to guide their relationships with others?
  • How would our churches operate if they asked God for spiritual discernment to serve the communities with understanding hearts?

It is time for us to be intentional in our pursuit of spiritual discernment as we continue in these “evil and wicked days” (Ep. 5:15-21).  Like Daniel, we must seek it.  Like the psalmist, we must pray for it.  Like Solomon, we must humbly yet boldly ask for it.

Spiritual Discernment: Our Error Detection System

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10   (ESV)

In television technology, Error Detection and Handling (EDH) protocol is commonly used as part of the standard interface.  This protocol allows a television receiver to verify that each field of video is received correctly.  The EDH contains certain “bits” to signal that a prior link in a broadcast or transmission chain contained an error.  The EDH protocol does not provide for error correction, only error detection.  Why are we talking about television technology, errors, and correction systems?  We too need spiritual methods to not only detect moral errors that are so prevalent in this present world system but that also provide a way to correct them.  We need discernment.  Today we introduce a new series, “Discernment:  Seeing with 20/20 Vision”.

Discernment involves the process of keen insight and good judgment.  People are usually discerning about things that are important to them.  For example, if you are watching your weight, you will be very discerning about the food you select and its preparation.  If you are in need of legal advice, you will exercise great discernment in the selection of the best lawyer to assist you.  In similar manner, spiritual discernment helps believers “judge well”.

Spiritual discernment encompasses separating divine truth from error.  This is a difficult task as we are torn between the world’s influence, our human flesh, and Satan’s deception.  First Thessalonians 5:21 advises us to “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.”  The world has told us there is no such thing as “good”—no standard of right or wrong; it is all relative, based on each person’s unique situation.

When the Church exercises spiritual discernment, it is accused of being intolerant: individuals who “hold fast to what is good” are labeled as narrow-minded and bigoted.  If believers, individually and collectively, are to be “salt and light” in a fallen world (Matt. 5:13-16), spiritual discernment must be practiced and protected. Spiritual discernment equips believers to clearly recognize error by “seeing through God’s eyes.”  It finds its basis in God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.

God’s Word is the ultimate source of truth.  It becomes the spiritual “EDH” by which we can detect error and is the perfect standard by which we distinguish right from wrong.

    • For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb.  4:12)
    • The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. (Ps. 119:160)

The Holy Spirit, living within us, is the Truth Discerner, who will lead us into all truth.  He knows the mind of God and will direct us based on God’s purpose and plan for our life.

    • But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)
    • So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Gal. 5:16)

God has given us His Word and His Spirit to guide us in all wisdom and knowledge, that we may live righteous and holy lives (2 Pet. 1:3-4).  If we seek only to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise”, we will not be spiritually discerning.  It is our responsibility as children of light (Eph. 5:8) and defenders of truth (1 Pet. 3:15) to embrace and cultivate spiritual discernment.

Finding Your True North

“Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world.  ”      1 John 2:15-16 (New Living Translation)

As part of my Girl Scout experience, I was given the opportunity to earn several merit badges.  I specifically remember working on my camping badge and learning how to utilize the North Star if I found myself lost in the woods.  Later I discovered that there was another “north”.  It’s called true north.  It differs from the compass north I used in Girl Scouts in that true north is depended on the traveler first knowing “where they are”.  It is important to know our “spiritual true north.” Not knowing our true north leaves us vulnerable to Satan lies and exposed to misdirection by the world.

What does finding your true north mean?  In Bill George’s book, True North, he says, “it’s the internal compass that guides you successfully through life.  It is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track.  It’s based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations and the sources of satisfaction in your life.”

In our text, the Apostle John warns this early church to guard against allowing the world to define who they are (their values and beliefs).  John’s warning is still valid in the 21st century.  The world (its systems and influences) attempts to define what’s important to us in three (3) areas:  the lusts of the flesh (what makes us happy), the lust of the eyes (what we have) and the pride of life (who we are).  Like the world, believers are tempted to base their happiness, their security, and their significance on the things that the world offers.  These are the “luxurious lies of money, materialism, and marketing.”   The results of these misguided beliefs are an exhausted workforce, financially overcommitted families, and angry, disillusioned individuals.  They need to find their True North.

Solomon found neither happiness, nor security, or significance in the things the world offered.  On the contrary, he described the pursuit of these things as “vanity” or meaningless (Ecc. 12:8).  We need only to peruse the latest tabloid headlines at the grocery checkout to see the broken promises of fame and riches in the lives of individuals who thought “having it all” would make a difference.  Unfortunately they failed to look at the only Person who is able to make good on that expectation—Jesus Christ who came to provide life more abundantly (John 10:10).  They failed to find their True North.

Believers are not to “love” (agapao) the world or the things in it.  This is not a statement of a “minimalist” but the wisdom of God who warns that we are neither to focus on nor be envious of the things of this world—especially the things that are counter to the will of God (Rom. 1:25) .  Paul warned the church at Rome (and us today) not to be conformed to the world (in its thinking and behavior) but transformed by the renewing of their mind (by the revealed Word of God) (Rom. 12:2).  While we as believers cannot divest ourselves from the world, we are not to look like the world.  Our lives are to be a reflection of who we are—the redeemed children of God (Luke 1:68; John 1:12).  We are to keep our eye on our True North, Jesus Christ.

Happiness, security, and significance can only be found in God.   He is our exceeding great reward (Gen. 15:1).  We are complete in Him (Col. 2:10).  He is our strong high tower (Ps. 144:2).  Jesus understood the challenge of living in this fallen world.  That why He prayed to the Father not to remove His disciples (including future believers) from the world but to “keep them” from evil while living in the world (John 17:15).   Knowing our True North, Jesus Christ, will enable us to follow the right path.

SELAH:  In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going or what is the right path for us personally.   Meditating on God’s Word will help you to “remove the cobwebs” and see more clearly.  Meditate on 1 John 2:15-16 in your favorite bible translation.  Begin with prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to join you in this time of meditation.  Read the text aloud and slowly; note “any word or phrase” that seemed to capture your attention.  Read it a second time paying attention to “the tone and emotion” the Apostle John used in this text.  Read it a final time and then sit silently and expectantly for one minute.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through His Word.  What does He have to say to you regarding your “True North”?   Journal what you hear—share it with a friend.

Get Wisdom

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”  Proverbs 4:7 (KJV)

Is wisdom important?  When was the last time you complimented friends or family for their wisdom?  Has a political candidate ever run on a wisdom platform?   As I listen to daily newscasts and assess our current world affairs, I wondered if Jesus views us as “wise” or foolish stewards.  Do people, in general, care about wisdom? With that in mind, I input into my search engine, “where is wisdom in the 21st century?” I was overwhelmed by the number and variances in responses—7.6M to be exact.  People do care about wisdom!  So with that information in hand, we begin a new series entitled, “Desperately Seeking Wisdom” as we direct our attention to the Source and Sustainer of true wisdom—God.

Why do we need wisdom?   Wisdom is particularly important for us in our technological society, where we place a strong emphasis on knowledge.  Climate change, social oppression and injustices, political strife, the erosion of truth and trust in our traditional institutions—these are just a sample of the problems our world faces.  None of these pressing challenges can be navigated unless tempered with biblical wisdom.  Only when one abandons what seems wise by human standards to accept without hesitation the “divine viewpoint” as revealed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit can true wisdom be claimed (1 Cor. 3:19-20) .

What is wisdom?  Wisdom is generally defined as knowledge guided by understanding.  Knowledge without understanding often results in misunderstandings and errors in judgment.  But I would expand that secular definition and say that “godly wisdom” is a way of thinking and conduct that is orderly, socially sensitive, and morally upright.  It is a way of viewing and approaching life that results in purposeful, God-honoring living (1 Pet. 1:13, 14).  While wisdom may be relatively easy to define it, the real challenge lies in how to acquire it.

How do we gain wisdom?  Though wisdom cannot be learned, its development begins with the access of knowledge; it must be honed by experience.  We can gain wisdom vicariously through the experiences gleaned from others—seeing how they handle situations similar to ones we may face.  For wisdom that can only be gained through experience, we might seek mentors, special “tech” groups, and life coaches, to help guide our decision making and problem solving.  These are a few examples of how we hope to gain understanding, insight, and ultimately wisdom. However, the best source of wisdom is God (Prov. 2:5, 9-10,12).

The wise person is one who is sensitive to God and who willingly subjects himself to Him. The wise person is one who goes on to apply divine guidelines in everyday situations and guided by God’s will, makes daily choices. It is only in joining the Lord’s words to experience that wisdom can be found or demonstrated (James 1:23-25).

I like Eugene Petersen’s Message translation of our opening text.

“Sell everything and buy Wisdom! Forage for Understanding. Don’t forget one word! Don’t deviate an inch! Never walk away from Wisdom—she guards your life; love her—she keeps her eye on you. Above all and before all, do this Get wisdom!”

SELAH:   Meditate on the benefits of wisdom found in Proverbs 4:5-10.  Journal how God’s wisdom has benefitted you this past week.





The Paths of God

What comes to your mind when you think of paths? For me, I visualize the well-worn shortcut I followed as a child, as I ventured to my grandmother’s house on Sunday afternoon.  While hidden from the casual traveler in the area, this path represented a familiar and direct route to my final destination. For believers, the paths of God will also lead to our final destination-eternity with Him. Join the Psalmist David as he explores the paths of God.

The 25th Psalm was written by David and given the title, “Prayer for Guidance and Deliverance.” It is fitting then that we speak of the paths of God in the context of guidance and deliverance. The Hebrew translation for path is orach (o’-rakh) and is used to described as a well-trodden road. Orach appears fifty-eight (58) times in the Old Testament; found predominately in the books of Proverbs, Psalms, and Job. Most often it is used in a figurative way, describing the way to life or to death. (Prov. 4:14)

In our text, David is asking God to teach him His paths–the ways to life (to be pursued) AND the ways to death (to be avoided). God’s paths represent His best for our lives, even when we don’t understand where the “end” will take us. We can trust in God. (v.2) We can be confident He will lead us in mercy and truth (vv. 5 and 10) and that His paths reflect His tender mercies and lovingkindness. (v. 6) As we travel the paths of God, “He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.” (Micah 4:2) Where do we begin?

  1. Meditate on God’s Word.   There we will learn of God’s ways. “They word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths.” (Ps. 119:105)
  2. Spend time with God.   There we better understand God’s path for our life. “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps. 16:11)
  3. Listen for His Voice.  There we align our thoughts with the God’s through the Holy Spirit.  “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17)

Knowing God’s paths will relieve worry and concern with the events in the world and in our life. Be aware of the paths God daily chooses for you. Because of His lovingkindness, we can trust that He will always “lead us in the way that you should go.” (Ps. 143:8) All the paths of God are good.

Good to the Last Byte…

Paths are very different from highways. While the later are usually traveled by greater numbers of people, paths offer a more solitary route for arrival. While highways offer a better maintained and smoother journey, paths are found in areas where the terrain is rough and uneven in spots. Paths may be well-trodden by the few who found them both dependable and worthwhile. Following God’s “paths of righteousness” (Ps. 23:3) will get you where you need to go–on earth and through eternity.