Spiritual discernment is the ability to see life from God’s perspective. It requires that we know how He thinks and acts. The Bible is His unchanging, infallible revelation of Himself. However, the Lord doesn’t simply give us a list of facts about His character and ways. All throughout the pages of Scripture, He illustrates who He is and how He operates.
Although an ancient book, the Bible is in no way obsolete. Its stories may have taken place centuries ago, but its principles and applications are still relevant, offering discernment about situations and guidance for decisions.
God’s Word—which Ephesians 6:17 refers to as “the sword of the Spirit”— is active and piercing, like a surgeon’s scalpel. The words don’t simply sit on the page; rather, they penetrate our heart and judge our thoughts and motives. This convicting quality is why some Christians avoid reading the Bible. They prefer to live on a surface level but never understand why they react to situations the way they do. If we don’t want to keep making the same mistakes, it’s essential that we become discerning about ourselves. The way to do that is by approaching the Word of God with an open spirit. Then God will bring to light our hidden motives and unrecognized sins.
Spiritual discernment involves seeing not just circumstances but also ourselves from God’s perspective. Have you learned to embrace the piercing sword of Scripture, or have you avoided doing so because it makes you uncomfortable? Remember, whenever the Lord uses a surgical knife, His purpose is always to make us healthier.
Bible In One Year: Psalm 139-144
Read: 1 John 4:7–21
Bible in a Year: Job 32–33; Acts 14
We love because he first loved us.—1 John 4:19
We worked patiently to help our son heal and adjust to his new life with our family. Trauma from his early days in an orphanage was fueling some negative behaviors. While I had enormous compassion for the hardships he experienced in his early days, I felt myself begin to withdraw from him emotionally because of those behaviors. Ashamed, I shared my struggle with his therapist. Her gentle reply hit home: “He needs you to go first . . . to show him he’s worthy of love before he’ll be able to act like it.”
John pushes the recipients of his letter to an incredible depth of love, citing God’s love as both the source and the reason for loving one another (1 John 4:7, 11). I admit I often fail to show such love to others, whether strangers, friends, or my own children. Yet John’s words spark in me renewed desire and ability to do so: God went first. He sent His Son to demonstrate the fullness of His love for each of us. I’m so thankful He doesn’t respond as we all are prone to do by withdrawing His heart from us.
Though our sinful actions don’t invite God’s love, He is unwavering in offering it to us (Rom. 5:8). His “go-first” love compels us to love one another in response to, and as a reflection of, that love. —Kirsten Holmberg
Thank You, Lord, for loving me in spite of my sin. Help me to “go first” in loving others.
God loved us first so we can love others.
INSIGHT: Have you found it’s easier to make up after an argument if the other person makes the first move? Maybe they don’t even apologize, but you see in their eyes and hear in their voice that they care about you. If Jesus went first and showed us His love, can we now make that first move and show love to someone else? Mart DeHaan
I must confess to a certain curiosity with why things turn out as they do. I read a lot of history, biographies, and stories of human successes and failures. Being a child of a particular age, I was raised with a certain degree of optimism. The bad times—World War II, the Korean War—were behind us, and once again we could get back to the normal business of pursuing happiness and success, which I was led to believe were easily within my reach.
Optimism is not hope, yet it is a recurring feature of life in good times. It is also a feature that all too quickly vanishes and reveals itself for what it is when bad times return. As a European, I lived through one of history’s great turning points, a turning point powerfully demonstrated in the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. The wall was not simply a physical reality, which had divided families, a nation, and a continent for decades; it was a symbol of the clash of visions and worldviews that battled for a season, not only for Europe, but for global dominance.
I can well remember the astonished newscasters as Germans embraced each other on top of the despised symbol of separation. Europe and the world seethed with the euphoria of change. The brave new world was being born, and optimism was the mood of the day (1989-1991). I heard breathless gurus of the age proclaim the dawn of unfettered freedom, and one even wrote shortly thereafter about “the end of history and the last man” in the sincere belief of the triumph of free market capitalism and liberal democracy.
Yet wisdom bids us to stop, look, and listen. In the first decade of the twenty-first century we have witnessed 9/11, bombings in Spain, Bali, and London. We have seen the debacles of Enron, WorldCom, and the fiascos of “Bear Stearns” (USA) and “Northern Rock” (UK). Optimism has met its match. Perhaps for some, they are seeing the collapse of hopes and the fulfillment of fears. The movie scene is reflectively filled with apocalyptic and nihilistic visions.
When hope fades, cynicism is often waiting in the wings. And this is indeed one of the great challenges of our time. Skepticism (there is nothing good and I know it) and cynicism (I can’t trust anybody or anything and I know this) seem reasonable choices. But is this a necessary outcome or orientation for us? I think not. Yet, if we have bought into a rationalist vision, if we have embraced the vision and values of our age uncritically, if faith is merely a part-time investment in an over cluttered life, then perhaps we don’t have the necessary orientation or resolve to face the issues and challenges of our time.
The Christian scriptures open up for us a view of the world that is very different: There is a God. This God is the creator, and God is personal, loving, willful, and particular. We see that despite being a good creation, a disruption and disorder has occurred and the drama of redemption unfolds. But the central character here is God! It is what God does, whom God appoints, and what God decides that makes the difference.
This is not to say that life according to Christian theology is pre-determined. I have seen too much, experienced too much, and read too much to believe that my choices are illusory. I believe they are real. I have also seen too much, experienced too much, read too much to believe that our choices are, as Lewis would say, “the whole show.” History is not a fatalist’s game. Humans do act, and often with serious and sad outcomes. The good news, I believe, is that we are not alone!
Writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul reminded them that hope is real because it is anchored in one who is able to carry it, sustain it, and fulfill it.(1) History is moving to an end, and Christ offers a good end. Thus, the difference between optimism, which is short term and easily overcome, and hope, which is eternal and anchored, is where they are rooted. One leans on human effort; the other rests in God and God’s promises.
Stuart McAllister is global support specialist at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Romans 8:24-25, 28-30.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.—Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV
Have you ever gone on a cleaning rampage to straighten up your home or office? Did you enjoy pitching junk, straightening objects, and organizing materials so that you could find them when you need them?
You may need to get on a Holy Ghost rampage and do the same thing with your life. Say, “I’ve had enough bondage. I’ve had enough negative thoughts. I’ve had enough of the lies of the devil. I am not going to have any more bad days. I am not going to be discouraged, depressed, or despondent. I am going to enjoy my life!”
Jesus is ready to help you live life to the fullest!
From the book Starting Your Day Right by Joyce Meyer
“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is the faithful God who for a thousand generations keeps His promises and constantly loves those who love Him and who obey His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Torn between the desire to surrender his life to the Lord and the desire to be his own person, Tom gave vent to his frustration.
“I want to be a good Christian,” he said, “but I’m afraid of God and what He might do to change my plans. You see, I have great plans for my life and I don’t want to end up wasting it.
“For example, I don’t want to marry someone with whom I would be miserable or risk my opportunities for a successful business career.”
I asked Tom, as I have often asked others, “Do you really believe that God loves you?”
“Yes,” he replied – and that is the general response. Then I reminded him that Jesus Christ so loved him that He was willing to die on the cross for his sins.
“Do you believe that He died for you?”
“Yes,” Tom agreed, and that also is the general reply.
Then, my final question, “Don’t you think that you can trust the omnipotent Creator God, who so loved you that He sent His only begotten Son, who Himself loved you so much that He was willing to die on the cross for your sins, that you may have a full and abundant life here on earth and for all eternity?”
Tom’s response was, “I’d never thought of it that way before. Of course I can trust Him, and I will.”
Together we knelt in prayer, and God touched his life in such a dramatic way that he has since been used to introduce many thousands to our Savior.
Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 7:6-8, 10-13
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will surrender my will to do the will of God in all things, because I know that He is a God of love, wisdom, compassion and concern who wants the very best for me. I will share this good news with other Christians who are reluctant to surrender their wills to Him and with nonbelievers who have not yet entered into the joy and excitement of the supernatural life.
God moves us forward by healing our past! Can he really? Can God heal this ancient hurt in my heart? Of course He can. In fact, God cares more about justice than we do. He eminds us in Romans 12:17-19, “Never pay back evil for evil…never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for He has said that He will repay those who deserve it.”
We fear the evildoer will slip into the night, unknown and unpunished. Escape to Fiji and sip mai tais on the beach. Not to worry. Scripture says, “God will repay,” not “God might repay.” God will execute justice on behalf of truth and fairness. Unlike us, God never gives up on a person. Never. Long after we’ve moved on, God is still there, probing the conscience, stirring conviction, always orchestrating redemption. Fix your enemies? That’s God’s job.
From You’ll Get Through This
For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.
Fifty million Americans use heartburn drugs such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid. All three are proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). In a recent study, patients who began using PPIs were 25 percent more likely to die than people who started taking other types of heartburn medication.
However, the study’s author emphasized that people taking PPIs should not stop their medication without consulting their doctors. The drugs could help people with bleeding ulcers and those at a higher risk for cancer.
So, should you take these medications or not? Until further research is done, it’s apparently hard to say.
Meanwhile, meteorologists are working on ways to predict the weather years into the future. According to one expert, scientists are using petabytes of data to develop and test models that would predict major weather events. He explains: “We’re optimistic for some of these big events, like a big El Nino, we can predict them.”
By contrast, consider my meteorological experience yesterday. I went for a walk in my neighborhood at 6 a.m. after checking the National Weather Service app, which predicted that rain would begin at my location around 8:30 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, rain and lightning forced me to return. I checked the app again—even though rain was falling outside, it claimed that showers would not begin until 8:15 a.m.
One more news item: the American Federation of Astrologers says that seventy million Americans read their horoscopes every day. According to a Harris poll, 26 percent of Americans believe in astrology. One study reports that 58 percent of Millennials consider astrology to be scientific.
Why are we so intent on predicting the future?
It’s not that we’re necessarily good at it. When Apple unveiled its new phone ten years ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” Steve Chen, cofounder of YouTube, wasn’t sure his creation was viable: “There’s just not that many videos I want to watch,” he explained.
Paradoxically, the fact that we cannot predict the future is one reason we try. Anything that gives us a perceived sense of control over the uncontrollable will always be enticing. Since technology has given us greater mastery of our present circumstances than any generation in history, our quest to foresee the future is understandable.
However, tomorrow is unknowable to all but the One who transcends time: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'” (Isaiah 46:9–10).
In light of his omniscience and our finitude, our choice is simple: We can join our secular culture in fearing an unknown future, or we can trust what we cannot see to the God who sees us. Which is our Father’s intention for his children? Which is a greater witness to his provision and power?
Thomas Fuller: “He who fears not the future may enjoy the present.” Will you enjoy the present today?