Tag Archives: discernment

Last days

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Last days

It should come as no surprise to followers of Jesus Christ that we will encounter more false teaching, doctrine, so-called believers including pastors of mega churches, authors, music, and the like who proclaim false doctrine according to the Word of God.

My husband is probably the first to ever challenge me on this very topic. I’ve written about it before, but I believe it needs to be repeated. As someone who worked in a Christian bookstore for years as a teenager, I thought I was pretty well versed on what should be classified as ‘correct theology’. The bookstore I worked in was a “mom and pop” bookstore that exercised discernment in what they would supply in their store. I specifically recall a very popular book at the time I worked there that was one of those so called ‘bandwagon books’, meaning a large community of believers was endorsing, purchasing, and ‘buying into’ its teaching. I recall how even as a young impressionable teenager, I so admired the owners’ conviction to not carry said book, even though it would have been profitable financially to do so.

Fast-forward some twenty or so years later, my husband and I had a conversation once about a particular, rather popular “Christian” author in which I had a few of this author’s books on my bookshelf. In a loving, yet direct way, my husband challenged me to consider this author’s beliefs. As he did some research and lovingly shared his findings with me, I was shocked to learn this author with a large following, selling out stadiums for speaking engagements, had huge discrepancies in major key points of doctrine. Of course, I was embarrassed that I’d been duped into believing this author was one to be trusted. I recall when my husband first brought his suspicion to me, I was a bit defensive of the author as someone I respected on our church staff quoted this author often in a women’s group she led that I’d been a part of for some time. We even watched some of this author’s teachings during our meetings. In my defense, I’d never heard her speak or read anything she had written that contradicted my beliefs or noticed any red flags of the person’s theology. However, it was from this person’s twisted and false doctrine that they wrote and spoke from. It can be very subtle and even sneaky so as not to unveil the lies.

It was then that my husband educated me to be discerning about everything we allow into our minds, especially when it comes to teaching and music from a “follower of Christ”. He gave me pointers such as checking into the endorsements of an author’s books. Are those endorsing this author someone you can trust biblically and theologically? Is their doctrine sound? Where was the author educated? He pointed me to a couple trusted websites where I could search a particular author and their beliefs. He also cautioned me that just because a particular author or book is sold in a so-called Christian bookstore or even marketed as a Christian book, doesn’t mean the book/author is reputable, or even a Christian. Most importantly though, my husband encouraged me to pray for discernment from the Holy Spirit. Pray and ask the Lord to help me rightly identify anything I come across that does not align properly with God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to heighten my senses by being in God’s Word regularly so that I can recognize counterfeit from truth, remembering that the two are closely intertwined.

Now, as a long-time follower of Christ, I was astonished and quite embarrassed that I didn’t recognize such false teaching for myself. How was it possible I could be duped? I believed I was well-versed on truth. It was then that I realized how critical it was for me to ask the Lord for wisdom, understanding, and discernment. God’s Word is clear to believers, warning us of what we allow into our minds and what is to come in the last days. We have to remember that our enemy seeks to confuse us and our beliefs; while God is not a God of confusion. We must be careful what we allow in our thought life and what we put before our eyes, even if it seems that everyone else is reading it. Just because a book is a top seller, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be read. Being in God’s Word with our minds saturated in His truth will give us reason to check everything against His Word.

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.”  (2 Peter 2:1)

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.                                         (2 Timothy 3, full chapter)

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. (Proverbs 18:15)

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5)

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decisions, decisions

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Decisions, decisions

Like me, I’m sure you have come to a crossroads more than once in your life as to which way to go in making a decision. It’s really challenging when both choices (or more!) are (seemingly) good. Ever been there? I have dozens and dozens of times! And, it’s not always family-related. Sometimes it’s a job decision, sometimes health or treatment, insurance/benefits, a potential move, building/existing construction. You get the picture.

I had one such rather challenging decision to make years ago. I was quite young and new to living on my own. It was an emotionally charged time for me. You see, my Mom had been recently diagnosed with cancer. I had just made a move across state lines to start a new job in which I felt called to begin a new chapter in my single life, only seven months prior to her diagnosis. I had prayed a long time about making this job move and had great peace about it, in addition to my family being on board, offering their full support. Doors opened left and right for me confirming what God had shown me. Yet, I wrestled with God more than once after hearing of Mom’s illness, “God, I just know that I heard clearly from You to move forward and take this job. Why, then, would you move me 250 miles away from my family at such a time as this?

My answer didn’t come all at once. Even at my young age, I knew that this move was part of a bigger plan that God had for me. He physically moved me to grow me up, to mature me, to be on my own and to trust Him to work out all the details. My Mom is the one who confirmed this for me! I knew she struggled with me being so far away once she was found to be terminally ill, especially, but she was selfless; knowing that this move for me was part of God growing me up and that had I stayed home, I probably would never have left home to sprout my wings and fly.

Now, understand, I’m making a lonnnnnnnng story quite short. In a nutshell, as I struggled with my heart being pulled between two seemingly “good” things: this exciting new job in a new city doing exactly what I’d dreamed of doing versus being near my family at such a time as this. In the midst of my inner turmoiI, out of the blue I  had been offered a job which would take me back home, near my family. Oh, how my emotions pulled me every which way. The kicker was this job I’d been offered would pay me quite a bit more salary than the job I currently held. I was really feeling torn. I wasn’t making much money anyway, so the hope of making more captured my attention. Complicating things was the fact that some well-meaning families in our home church believed I should be back home, taking care of my Mom during her terminal illness. Now, I’m a people-pleaser to the core, and their opinion rocked my emotional world. My heart was troubled.

This is where the story gets interesting. While I never  heard God’s audible voice lay out His perfect plan for me, He certainly gave me direction with the details unfolding before my eyes. I vividly remember asking Him to help me hear His voice above all others. My boss had generously offered for me to go to be with my family as I needed and not to worry about my job, that he would bring in a “temp” to cover me until I could return. Wait? What?! This type of offer doesn’t just happen! I reached out to a couple friends whose advice and wisdom I valued, asking them to pray for me and the decisions I needed to make. What I learned through this process was that money isn’t everything. In other words, the job offer I’d received, while boasting a higher salary, proved to be a “short-lived” job opportunity. In other words, it wasn’t going to afford me the opportunities long-term that I was interested in pursuing. However, I was temporarily blind-sighted by the lure of the money being offered when I really wasn’t interested in the job. Not to mention, I was emotionally wracked over the fact that barring a miracle, I would be losing my Mom.

I’m not saying this job was a “bad” job in any way. I’m sure it would have proven to be a good job had I not already moved away from home. God used my trusted, praying friends to help me weed through this emotional dilemma I was facing. On one of my many trips home, my Mom encouraged me that she wanted me to be where I wanted to be and not take this job I wasn’t interested in only to be back home. I believe God allowed her to see her days were numbered and my time back home wasn’t going to last forever. She reminded me I needed to be where I felt the Lord had led me.  She had been my biggest cheerleader when I thought moving away to a new city wasn’t even a possibility for me. God used all these ‘puzzle pieces’ of wisdom to lead me to the decision I made. I had to come back to where I knew God had brought me, despite the distractions in my path. I don’t mean to imply my Mom’s illness was a distraction. Far from it! She was my best friend and the thought of losing her broke my heart. I felt that God had provided me an amazing opportunity to spend quality time with her, keep my job, and still get paid! I was able to work 3 days a week while commuting to be with my family the other 4 days of the week. I was able to go back and forth for 3 months.  It was a win-win and I knew only God could have orchestrated this solution!

I believe I had more quality time with my mom during the 4 days of the week I was home then I would have had if I’d moved back to take a new job. It was arranged that I would be closely involved in Mom’s care. I was able to be there for her doctor’s weekly evaluation visits, keep her medical diary, and get all the details of her care and updates firsthand. I took the night shift, sleeping in her room being available to her all throughout the night as she needed me to relieve my Dad of sleep deprivation as he had to continue working, and my sister was trying to graduate high school.

I am still in awe of all the many blessings God lavishly poured out upon our family at such a difficult and sad time. He truly manifested Himself through friends and loved ones in our lives. All of our needs were met by His grace. God truly showed up! He is a good, good God and He loves us more than we can even fathom with our own limited human minds.

What did I learn? Trusting Him throughout life’s most difficult moments and trials will grow and stretch your faith like nothing else. He is the only One able to make sense and order out of a messed up situation. He may not answer our prayers the way we want Him to (or think He should) BUT His Word tells us His ways are infinitely higher than ours. When we ask Him for wisdom, He generously gives it to us. He gives us direction and discernment. I cannot imagine living a life without Him. Life is hard, unfair and senseless at times. He doesn’t rescue us from difficulties, pain and disappointments but promises to walk through, even carry us through these times. He promises never to leave or forsake us.

I want to encourage you to get to know Him and His Word so that you will know His promises for yourself, as well as His character. Hide His Word in your heart. He will uphold us with His righteous right hand if we will allow Him to. He is a gentleman and never forces Himself upon us. Don’t miss out on another day’s worth of divine wisdom and guidance for the problems and decisions that constantly bombard and plague; turn your eyes upon Him and allow Him to shoulder your burdens, as only He can. He alone is faithful.

(Proverbs 18:24, Isaiah 41:10, James 1:5, Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 2, Proverbs 3, Proverbs 4, Proverbs 9:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

who says you can’t pour from an empty pitcher?

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who says you can’t pour from an empty pitcher?

Ever heard “you can’t pour from an empty pitcher“?

Have I left you scratching your head, wondering ‘what in the world are you talking about?’ I hope not, but if so, let me explain. Basically, if you are used up, overloaded, without rest and spent, you cannot give to others effectively. In order to give (of yourself) you need to be filled up, as in a pitcher of water, so that you can freely give of yourself. This involves balance and most importantly, learning to say “no” when necessary. In the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, we read that there is a time for everything.

This is my struggle. I don’t know if you can relate or not. Here’s where I fall off the wagon: My response to people asking if I can participate in, or do such and such, tends to be “yes” (if at the time I’m genuinely interested and honestly want to do whatever it is.) What I oftentimes don’t consider is that I may, depending on the season I’m in, already have a full plate for me. There, that is the pivotal word: me. You see, my full plate may not be your full plate. There are times when I can and do add obligations to my plate when I absolutely have no business doing so. Why? Because I’m already tapped out. I have no reserve. I’m over-committed. For me to take on yet another thing, I need to drop something I’m currently doing. Make sense?

When I’m consistently having my Quiet Time with the Lord, seeking His will, not my own, and what HE would have me give my time, attention, and resources to, it’s much easier for me to discern how to respond. On the flip side, when I’m running on my own power, I tend to gravitate to anything that I have an interest for and upon agreeing, I feel anxious and trapped afterwards. This is not a healthy place to be, if you haven’t guessed. This often leads me in a downward spiral of “but Sally Sue can do all this and more. What is wrong with me that I can’t do it all?” My husband quickly reminds me with much wisdom that “you are not that person and they are not in your shoes“.

As well, I believe that too often, we as Christians mistakenly read the scripture Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” to mean that we are supposed to be doing everything we can because God will give us the strength to accomplish it all. In so doing, people take this verse out of context and use it to reinforce a “triumphalist” or “super-Christian” mentality, instead of seeing that the strength of Jesus in Paul’s life was evident in his ability to be content when he did suffer need (Enduring Word Commentary).

“I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”  Philippians 4:10-14 (NIV)

So, what are we supposed to do, worn out Mommas? How are we to respond to well-meaning requests for volunteer work, or what have you? My personal opinion is first to pause and let the person asking know that you need time to consider and to seek God on it. Then, don’t allow yourself to use that response as an excuse; rather, go and seek God on it. Ask Him for His wisdom and discernment on the issue. Consider the cost of taking on another commitment and ask God for His help in making the decision. He loves when we go to Him and ask for His help (James 1:5). He promises to give us the discernment and wisdom we’re asking for (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 2:2,6,10; Proverbs 3:13,21; Proverbs 4:1,5,7,11; Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 9:10-12. I could go on and on and on….)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Sometimes,…

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Sometimes,…

You just have to be willing to say YES to receive a blessing. The challenge here is having  the discernment to know what things you have to say NO to in order to be able to say YES to what God may be leading or prompting you to do. A full calendar may look good to your ego, but when it comes to being available for what is really important, less is more.

Ask me how I know? I have learned the hard way, actually. Recently, I said “yes” to something I truly don’t like or enjoy doing. Why? I felt a prompting in my spirit to move forward with it and said “yes” to this thing I ordinarily would not have done otherwise. The great news is that I was blessed but better yet, I was able to bless someone else in return. A true win/win. Honestly, as someone just recently shared with me: ‘when you are able to do or help someone in a way that blesses them, you are the one who receives the bigger blessing.’ I have to say, it felt really good!

Remember, I said just a few sentences ago that I had to learn the hard way? Here’s how….for years and I do mean y.e.a.r.s, I have been really naughty (I have a 3 year old, remember?) about saying “yes” when, in all honesty I should have said “no,” plain and simple. Oftentimes, these things I’ve said a wholehearted “yes” to were in fact things I truly wanted and was excited to do AND they were good things, even God-honoring. The problem arrived when later that same day, or even a couple days later, I panicked. I know that may seem dramatic, but it’s true all the same. I know myself pretty well and I don’t operate on all 4 cylinders when I’m over-c0mmitted. I just don’t. Quite frankly, my anxiety takes over and sometimes, I even feel sick in my gut. (I know some of you are rolling your eyes thinking ‘this girl is off her emotional rocker!‘) All I can say, is this is 100% truth; I should know, I’m talking about me for heavens’ sake!

This is how I came to the point of learning to say NO. It has taken me awhile and I mean a long while to learn the fine art of saying no without feeling that I’m hurting someone’s feelings or letting someone down. I have to give credit where credit is due….it was my husband (leave it to him!) who put scripture to it.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
Honestly, this brought it all together for me. It made sense of my crazy emotional state. So now, whenever I’m faced with a decision of whether/not to take part in something (good or not, isn’t the question), he reminds me of this scripture and it truly helps me to think through whatever I’m considering. I don’t want to commit to something and not be able to see it through to completion but at the same time, I don’t want to become sick over it either, trying to please others.
These days, I find myself taking a brief pause when someone asks me (in person) to do this or that. It gives me a minute to gather my thoughts and recall this scripture. If I’m really caring for myself as I should, I will ask them if I may get back to them. This is best because then I can not only pause and think but most importantly, I can take some time to pray over my decision. What is most important to me, however, is that God is pleased with whatever commitments I make. Isn’t that what really matters?
This, in essence, is how I go about “sitting down to estimate the cost.” If we say “yes” to everything and everyone, we will be absolutely no good for ourselves or to those who matter most to us. Over-commitment, in my estimation, is not a good character trait. It just isn’t. We have to be able to analyze what is the best use of the time we have with the resources and prior commitments we already have. I have also learned that I must keep the main thing the main thing: the Lord, my spouse, my son, extended family & friends, church, work, etc., etc.
The takeaway: pray over every decision and commitment before you find yourself in over your head. I’ve been there many times and it’s not.much.fun. Choose to live in the state of freedom and be blessed all at the same time. You won’t regret it!

 

 

 

 

Taking Time To Read

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Taking Time To Read

This morning as I’m sipping some hot coffee, having made my husband’s lunch and prayed with him upon his departure to another busy day at the office, I’m reading in my favorite comfy chair. I’ve been enjoying reading more and more. While I enjoy reading, I have to work it into my schedule, which has to be a conscious choice made by me. You see, I’ve been convicted lately of spending too much time on social media. For me, it has become a means of escape. You know, mindless distraction from a busy, stressful day at home raising a little person. My point is not to rant on social media, rather convey how I’ve been striving to make better use of my time.

I started reading another of one of my favorite author’s books, Beautiful In God’s Eyes, by Elizabeth George. By no means is this a new publication. To me, new or old, it is timely wisdom for the season I’m in. Quite honestly, this book would apply to just about any season I’ve found myself in! It is about the treasures of the Proverbs 31 woman. Such wisdom is found within the pages of this book. I find myself wanting to read more and more of it even though the attributes of this Proverbs 31 woman seem difficult to ever attain. This woman is someone I’d aspire to be, a true heroine.

By no means is it an easy read, but a convicting one. However, I believe as women we all fall short of these attributes described here. You might be thinking, why read about someone you’ll never feel the satisfaction of becoming, only to be disappointed time and time again? My answer to that question quite simply is this, I realize that there is no way this side of heaven I could ever come close to having this woman’s attributes and character; however, with God’s help and transformation in my life, it is possible. My part is to partner with Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to transform, shape, renew and fix my mind on the things of Him. A tall task for sure, but thankfully, our God is in the miracle business!

Whether you read this book, or another, I’m encouraging you (and me, for that matter!) to choose to put uplifting and encouraging truth in your mind, to invest in bettering yourself as a wife, mom, and woman of God. From this, everything else will flow. More importantly, though, is to read God’s Word; His book trumps all other reading. Within its pages can be found topics on parenting, being an excellent wife and mother, guarding your heart, as well as learning of the Lord’s wisdom and knowing His heart.

Sure, God inspires authors to write, encourage, inspire, and even teach us. What I’ve learned though is that we must be discerning (something else to pray for!) in what we read and who has authored it. I’ve come to understand that just because a book has been recommended to me by someone I admire, or just because I find a book in my local Christian bookstore, doesn’t mean that this book is something of value for me to read. Why, you ask? There is value in researching an author. Look at and read the endorsements given for his publication; do you know these people and their teaching? Research who this author is, his beliefs and his teachings. You certainly don’t want to put false doctrine into your mind. His writing will flow from his teaching and beliefs and if his values and belief system are not in line with God’s teaching, then this book you are considering is probably not going to be something you should read.

In closing, fill your mind with God’s Word and know His truth and teachings well so that you will be better equipped to discern whether something you are considering reading is of value or not. Believe me, there is plenty of unbiblical teaching written, published and housed on many a shelf at even our Christian bookstore. I witnessed this first-hand having worked in a Christian bookstore for many years. I had so much respect for the owners of our store who, despite flack and lost sales, chose not to carry books by certain authors. It is sad, but so very true. We have to remember that there are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing…even in our local bookstores.