Weighing with Discernment

No, this post is not about the scale in my bathroom. I have discerningly stayed off that scale for the last few months:).
Decisions, decisions, decisions. Just when we get settled in a pattern, another decision is thrown at us. This year has provided me myriad opportunities to speak with women about God’s will. Each of us lives with an idea of God’s will–some more stringent than others. (Weirdly enough, I have found that the more one clings to the Sovereignty of God, the less anxious one is about “missing” God’s will. Maybe I should do an informal study.)
I spend the majority of my time with young adult women at a time in their life where lots of decisions are being made. What to study? Where to apply for jobs? What to do with my life? Where’s the man I thought would be here? Should I settle for an okay guy that makes me feel wanted or should I hold out for someone with greater spiritual maturity and integrity? Is there a guy out there with spiritual maturity and integrity? What city should I live in? Is it okay to do something I like or is that not what God wants me to do? Should I buy this house, this car, or should I stay with my parents?
Do you know a theme I have discerned? People are more concerned about the right and lefts of taking a job or moving than they are with the everyday decisions to pursue God by pursuing holiness. God’s word tells us of people who were called out of their lands to do crazy things (aka Abram, Jonah, Moses–etc). People fixate on this thought. God’s word, more than anything, tells us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and to grow in His character by the power of the Spirit in the gospel’s truth. Let’s face it–it is just more “sexy” and exciting to talk about big decisions than the daily decisions to pursue Him. It takes less committment on our parts to think about the “big” stuff than to think daily about surrender and where our affections turn. I hear so much fear in making a mistake and missing where God “wants” me in the big stuff (like marriage and moving etc), but I do not hear a fear about the everyday. Is it not our everyday decisions that make us who we are? In parenting, everyday consistency and love means more than that Disney vacation–right? So, what about making decisions daily for purity in our hearts? Dawson Troutman says “you are what you are now becoming.” Hmm.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 says the will of God is our sanctification. Romans 12:1-2 says to present ourselves as living sacrifices holy and acceptable–renewing our minds daily in Him instead of the world so that we can discern the will of God. Somewhere along the way, people are being taught more about a God of “fate” or a “genie” God more than one you follow with all your heart in order to worship Him and treasure Him in every decision (how to react to my toddler, what to watch on tv, how to spend my money at Target).
From my growth over the years, I see that God is more concerned with our heart’s devotion than righting or lefting us to Minneapolis, Podunkville, Tennessee, or China. There has been ONE time where I knew for certain WHERE I was to be–that was a call to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. That was my Abram out of Ur moment. Funny, I do not know all of God’s purposes, but I do know that as an 18 year old, I would never have guessed that He was calling me there to suffer and die to myself and see my sin. In my limited vision, I could have gone to a Christian school that I decided on my own and grown more in self-confidence, leadership, and selfishness. I know, sounds opposite, huh? But, He had me go to a place where I was shunned because of my stand for Him. I learned humility, dependence, need–and that I was sinful and He was graceful. He could have done that anywhere because He is God, but He purposed it at UTK. What did He purpose? Not a husband, not lifelong reunions with girlfriends, not a ministry–He purposed my sanctification.
As I said, my ONE time, in 35 years that I “heard” an exact location and call from God. ONE–not even in the who do I marry category did I get that one. In starting a ministry and leaving the world of consistent paychecks, I did not get a distinct “word” from God. In infertility, there are a lot of decisions to make–IUIs, hormones, IVFs, embryo adoptions, international adoptions, domestic adoptions, childlessness forever. I have not gotten a firm read on any of it. Has God abandoned me? By no means! Has He grown me in countless ways in all different places in the country and in my heart? Yes!
Well, I got another shock to the “what is God’s will” system the other day in a phone call. I was offered the opportunity, yet again, to apply for my “dream” job. (At least my dream job from a couple of years ago). I would have to turn from full time ministry to take it. Financially–wow, would it help. I want to pray about it–and I am. As I look, I see there could be many ways I could grow the kingdom there. There is no “wrong” in this situation. There might be a best–but a best in different categories. “Best” financially would be applying for the job–can we say downing lots of future debt and prepping for retirement, possible adoption costs, etc–those things are not ungodly. “Best” in the way I have been growing and maturing and walking deeply with people would be staying where I am–continuing to grow and invest in WDC. The last few months have afforded me so many opportunities to see fruit in the lives of people I have been investing in. I have seen fruit in my life–fruit that does not come from one day–but many years of surrender. I have been content in what God is doing. Growth as a leader, artist, shepherd, disciple has come.
Do I still wonder–Does God want me to take this job? Yes. I have a bit of the “right” and “left” leadership of God still in me from my teenage years. Do I want to continue growing where I am? Yes. Am I seeking God in the middle? Yes. One of my favorite songs ever–“Hold it up to the Light”–says “I am mourning the loss of the choices I’d lose.” (It’s a song about faith and decisions by David Wilcox.) I reflect yet again on that line. Sometimes I think I (and we) can make decisions and opportunities as idols. We have this sense that the decision itself will crush our lives if we do not do it right. (For example, if I do not apply for the job, a chain of events leading to my demise will occur where I will never have a child and my marriage will go to pot and I will miss leading myriad people to Christ.) Does that give God power and glory or the decision the power and glory? God wants us to trust and worship Him in the midst of all of life. In moments like these, I take a deep breath and know that day after day I have been in His word and have been surrendering to His leadership. I ask, trusting Him and His presence that is there day after day, “what do I desire to do?” I desire to continue serving with WDC and pouring out full time into young women and women of all ages. Does a new job sound exciting, sexy and full of economic promise? Yes. Would there be benefits to taking it? Yes. Would God work there, too? Yes. I choose to stay and offer God what I do here.

If you happen to see me on the side of the road with a “will work for food” sign, you know that I got this all wrong and should have been looking for a sign to go right or left!

Simply telling…

I subscribe to Real Simple magazine. Each month, I love getting the sleek magazine in the mail with beautiful colors and genius uses for everyday things. Filled with tips for one’s life including clothing, household tips, life articles, recipes which I never use, and decorating. I would say it is the agreed upon choice of magazine for many women.

The magazine is seemingly benign especially compared to all the other magazines I could be reading–i.e. gossip and celebrity mags (which are tempting to turn your mind away from real world stuff). Somehow, I think Real Simple and the like (watching HGTV, TLC, etc) are more dangerous for me. Why? It tells me–manage your world like this and you will be happy. I am enthralled with wonderful colors and ideas and wants (not bad in themselves).

Many times this does not add to my godliness. Ungodliness is living without thought or reverence of God. These benign things can turn my mind and heart away from the urgent to things that pass away. The desire for this becomes a cancer that devours my soul, and I forget why I am here. The road to hell is not as much sex, drugs and rock and roll as seemingly nice, moral people, taking care of their houses, building their 401Ks, raising their kids, going on yearly beach vacations, and planning for retirement with no regard that God is even there. They live with no regard that they are separated from Him by their hearts that rebel against Him worshipping other things. Things that they (we) treasure are like eating day old McDonalds when He has a feast that is fit for royalty. I can become drunk with colors and tips for my “happy life” instead of sober to the reality of the awesomeness of God and the truth of His word that so desperately needs to be shared. (At this point, you may be thinking, “she’s nuts”-that’s okay.)

I am not saying this magazine is evil or taking care of your household and family are evil–but they are not the end all. There is so much more. Anything can become evil when we turn our hearts and minds to think on hope in them and worship them before treasuring Jesus. I am called to help those around me treasure Christ more and more–sharing the Truth of the gospel to wake them from their slumber to the UNIMAGINABLE promise of life in Christ through His blood shed to take our punishment for sin. This is just a reminder that the seemingly benign can kill us with a hidden stealth if we do not examine our hearts and lives.

An important read

God’s will…that phrase is thrown around in the Christian subculture, and yet, I think no one grasps the concept. We know less about God’s will from what his word says about it than what we have gathered by the osmosis of people’s opinions. I have come to the conclusion that most have a mystical view of what God’s will is…these stirrings of direction, superstitions, inklings instead of actually learning what he calls us to…holiness.
Couple that thought with the lengthening of adolescence in our culture (I know because I lived it not having a clue who I was or what I was doing when I got out of college), and we have a lost generation of people looking for fulfillment in some direction that is floating in the wind.
There is a new book out by Kevin DeYoung that is a must read for young adults and all adults–“Just Do Something.” It is a concise book about God’s will. He points back to God’s word and really challenges how we have let our culture and generation shape our understanding of God’s will. It is much more, shall we say, sexy to think that God has this “plan” for us to decifer that is not plain. However, he is very plain about what our lives are to be about–Jesus. Pick it up…and let’s discuss.

The battle of the mind

A few days ago, I was refreshed and ready for the fall. I had energy and was ready for the somewhat exhausting days that I knew were ahead. Yesterday, however, I felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks. Something I had been looking forward to happening did not. I was reminded of a several of my failures all at the same time. Then, I began questioning everything I was doing–if I was equipped, if I had been simply fooling myself. Ever have a day or moment like that? Maybe your whole life seems to be filled with those thoughts.
By the time bed time came last night, I felt utterly defeated. I spoke some of it out loud, and Greg in his loving brevity squelched it a little bit. He basically said (in fewer words) “If you handled something poorly, what can you do but say you are sorry and move on?” Oh yeah.
I then, began to take charge of my thoughts a little bit. I began to examine what I am about to embark on: launching a ministry that will help the discipleship of women in Knoxville. It is not flashy, but it is a necessary part of the life in Christ–discipleship. It is commanded of all of us in Matthew 28:19-20. When you are dealing with the inner life of others and challenging and teaching them them to be dependent upon and grow in Christ, there will be push back and hard times and sometimes avoided phone calls. I have lived it many times this past year. Sometimes when you are the one who is helping someone challenge the deep seated sin in their life, you are not the first one they want to call. You are not running for Miss Popularity. In my flesh, I would always like to run for Miss Popularity in that I want to be loved and appreciated. However, I know that many times the greatest love for others is not always well appreciated because the greatest love points them toward Christ who is the only hope and not toward me making someone feel good in the moment. I know in my own life, I have loved the deep growth I have had in Christ and the freedom in the gospel more than feeling good about my comfort for the moment. So, to love others as myself, I have to move beyond my own self-protection and point them to Christ.
Last night, I realized that the enemy (who loves to steal, kill and destroy) was on the attack–he was accusing me (which is what Satan means–accuser). And, I was buying in hook, line and sinker. In the book I was just reading, the author encouraged the reader to take charge of their thought life. When you have daydream time, he said to put your mind on scripture and truth. I then, began to try that–remembering Philippians 4:8–think on things that are true, noble, good, excellent, praiseworthy, right, honorable, etc. I remembered the gospel–that I am no longer condemned, that I am set free and declared righteous because of Christ’s blood.
Many times the battle is in the mind, and when the stakes are high, the battle intensifies. Please pray for me as I move forward in meeting with the lawyer tomorrow. Please pray that my mind be upon truth and not indulging in the accusations and living in defeat. And, pray to be aware of areas in your life where the battle is hot. It may be accusations of guilt that you are not a good mother or wife or boss. It may be a failed relationship that you are defeated and scared about. It may be fear that plagues you from being obedient to what God is calling you to do. If I were my enemy, fear is where I would strike every time.
The truth about me is that I will fail at some things this year. I will struggle. I will not handle everything perfectly. I will see opportunity to act in sin grow. I must cling to the truth of the gospel and so must you. I must be quick to admit wrong and let go of pride. And, I must humbly ask for forgiveness of God and others as I continue to walk. I must meditate on his truth daily and praise him for all things. I must remember daily Romans 8:1–“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Discernment with “The Shack”

      There is no book that has receiving more buzz than “The Shack” this year (at least in Christian circles).  I have read the book, and, in it, I saw the beauty of an emotional story that draws the reader towards a certain view of God mixed with some serious error.  The danger comes when, emotionally involved, one openly reads and applies something as truth that may not neccessarily be so.  Usually in a fiction book, theology is not so readily mixed, so it almost creates a new paradigm to “learn” through.

     I know there are many hot sports opinions on all sides about this book. Tim Challies has posted a very thorough and readable review. It may take about 20 minutes of your time, but it is an educational read. No matter what you thought of this book or how it affected you, I think this is a discipline to learn about Biblical discernment through it. This will not be the last book that seriously seeks to redefine the image of God through fiction. We, as people of the word, have to train our minds to discern what is true and what is not.

Deception: are you buying it?

My heart is heavy.  This morning I am reminded that the enemy is a roaring lion looking for people to devour.  We are mostly devoured subtly, I think.  There are people that struggle with illicit drugs and sex, but most people I know are devoured by what look, in the beginning, like seemingly good things.  It then becomes their destruction.   What is most heavy on me is that this destruction happens within the walls of Christendom.(do people even use that word anymore?  This is my first time.)   The more I walk, the more I see that most people who claim the name of Christ are pretty clueless to what his word says.  We rely on someone else to tell us or a new book that sounds cool and new and different.  We are swept away by new thought and cling to that to give us meaning.  We are enamored by “Christian” gurus or speakers.  It breaks my heart that people can listen to speakers and read books by others and they do not even think twice when the very foundation of being a Christ follower is rocked.  What I see time and time again is biblical illiteracy.   Until I was a senior in college, the Bible was a cursory thing in my life.  I would have said that it was extremely important to me, but the way I lived, I used it to give a back up rationale for my thoughts and actions.  I used it for a little encouragement here and there for some decision I had to make.   Looking back, it was sort of like caffeine to me–using it to boost my life when I ran out of steam on my own.  I was highly convicted during this time to look deeply into it, and I was changed.  Things I assumed about God were shown empty.  Other things that I had not thought of before brought the richness of who he is to the forefront in my life.  At that time, my foundation was turned from what the church had taught me to the beauty of living by his word.  That reliance and process keeps growing in my life to this day…11 years later.   His word teaches me his character, his plan, his sovereignty…my sin, his sufficiency.  It is a treasure that keeps pointing my wayward heart back to him.  When I am out of it for a day or several days, I am spent, lacking, limping, and am quick to think of myself before all else.  The other day, my friend Tiffany and I actually looked through Psalm 119 to study the benefits of God’s word…wow.  There are a lot of them–it is a treasure.  To think that God sovreignly gave us his word to show us himself, to guide us, to convict us, to plainly tell us of Christ (all throughout his word), to keep us rooted in the truth of who he is….I am beyond thankful (but yet ashamed that I do not study it enough).   Yesterday, I was at a used bookstore in Knoxville where they have ‘give away’ bins.  Basically, they put books in that they do not think they can sell–usually there are random text books from the 70’s and really bad novels, etc.  It is always fun to think that you can get something for free, but usually, no dice on getting my interest.  However, as I was walking by yesterday, a Bible caught my eye.  A Bible, probably the most costly book ever.  There was a time in the pre-Reformation period where no one, except the very rich and educated in the Catholic church, had a Bible, and now, this one was thrown in a bin for free.   Is this a commentary on its worth to many?  As I look around, I think it is.  Daily, people I know are being swayed and devoured by lies.  Not just lies about their worth, etc–lies about Christ–about God’s character–the very truths shown in God’s word.  And, they do not even bat an eye because they have not studied.  They are swayed by sentiment and feeling and worldly wisdom.  I get swayed by it, too.  That is the very time I am reminded that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9).  I am reminded that our human wisdom is lacking (1 Corinthians 1:17).  His word shows us his truth.  It shows us the truth of this time…

 ‘For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But, you keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’  2 Timothy 4:3-5  

  Is this the time where I name names?  My personality really hates to do that, but I see that people continued to be glossed over  not reading or living with discernment.  Just because something sounds good and cool…do not swallow it.  Take it to God’s word….actually, spend more time there than anywhere else.  Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you the Truth through it.  Memorize it.  Live your life by it.  Realize it’s transforming power–it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).  Dig deep into the meat instead of living life lazily on the surface.  Look at the whole counsel of God–the Old and New testaments…study through a whole book instead of verses you go to to feel good.  Follow what it says–trust God that the way he lays out handling conflict is wise and best instead of human practices (Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 18).  Put feet to your faith.  If you spend more time in it than being enamored by a new author which seeks to ‘redefine’ Christianity, you may see fruit beyond what you ever imagined in your life.   I beg of you, study his word.  Pray that he show you himself through it.  Be diligent in pursuing godliness.  This takes time and effort, but it is worth a thousand-fold.