The Importance of Discernment

Matthew 3:1-12

Who couldn’t use a little discernment? We desperately need the Lord’s help to determine truth and reality in a world filled with confusing gray areas and evil deceptions.

A discerning spirit is one that is in tune with the Spirit of God. As John the Baptist lived in submission to the Lord, he gained insight beyond anything that could have originated from his own mind.

He saw the situation from God’s perspective and delivered a strong rebuke to that “brood of vipers” (Matt. 3:7). Although we may never be as forthright as John, there will be times when a discerning spirit will lead to confrontation.

The Father wants His children to develop spiritual discernment in order to guard against deception. We must know how to recognize invalid philosophies as well as false doctrines that sneak into the church. What’s more, divine insight can also protect us in our relationships and even helps us see the truth about ourselves.


Are You Afraid of God?

The Scriptures are full of verses that speak of the enjoyment God’s people find in Him. If we aren’t delighting in the Lord on a consistent basis, there may be some hindrances in our life.

When the Scriptures tell us to fear the Lord, it means to honor, revere, and obey Him as a child does a parent. But, if we see Him as a tyrannical Father, we’ll be afraid of Him, and this kind of fear keeps us from experiencing joy in our relationship with Him.

It’s important to remember that our heavenly Father loved us so much that He sent His Son to rescue us from our sin and has placed us securely in His loving family.

Prayers Judged by an Olympic Panel?

If you’ve been watching the Olympics lately, especially the figure skating, you may have noticed the competitor is judged on their performance by a panel of judges. The judges render their decisions on how well the skater performed based on the skater’s style, ability and overall program.

Can you imagine our prayers being judged and graded by an Olympic panel? Pretty far-fetched thought isn’t it? Some of us, when we pray, feel like it’s important that we use the proper language, phrase or even the latest prayer trend because we think God is judging our prayers like an Olympic panel.

In Matthew 6:7 we have some guidance on the way we shouldn’t pray. It says, “Don’t ramble like heathens who talk a lot.” A more positive approach on praying is given by Jesus when the disciples asked Him how to pray. He gave them a prayer that we can use as our guide, which is found in Matthew 6:9-13. We all know this as the “Lord’s prayer.”

When you read the Lord’s prayer you will see that it is straight forward in its content and requests and doesn’t use a lot of flowery language. God is looking at our heart when we pray because it is from the heart that our motivations in life pour forth.

The next time you pray, remember, make your requests simple, straight forward, and from the heart. Then, relax in confidence knowing God has heard your prayers and will answer you according to His will for your life. Oh, and by the way, because you’ve taken the time to reach out and pray to the Father you’ve scored a 10!


The Power of a Simple Prayer

Prayer is something very personal to those who do it. Where they choose to do it is not of consequence except if they are doing it for the wrong reasons. Religious leaders in Jesus’ day loved to make a spectacle of their praying by praying in areas where they could be seen and heard. Their motivation for such prayer was the admiration and respect they received from those around them. I think you would agree their purposes fall short of what God really wants from us in our prayers.

In Matthew 6:6 Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and He will reward you.” Jesus’ audience were simple farmers and trades people. They couldn’t enter the temple like the religious leaders described here but they did have access to Almighty God through their prayers.

What was the point that Jesus was making here about prayer? Simply this—Jesus is low on fancy but wants to be as accessible as possible to the believer. You don’t need to woo him with location or wow him with eloquence.

It’s the power of a simple prayer!


God—The Greatest Lover of All

God’s love is totally different from ours. For one thing, His love is everlasting. He bestows it on us continuously, and there is absolutely nothing that can interrupt or interfere with it. This is because His love is not based on a feeling but flows from His very nature. Therefore, it is perfect, unchangeable, and trustworthy (1 John 4:8). In contrast, disagreements and other circumstances can cause human love to fluctuate or fail.

What’s more, God’s love is unconditional—there’s nothing we can say or do to either deserve or deter it. We never have to wonder if the Lord still loves us. Every day you and I walk under the canopy of His love, which remains unaffected by our behavior, whether good or bad. Even if we wander from His will or fall into disobedience, we don’t have to worry that the canopy will be removed. We did not build it, so we can’t dismantle it. The source of God’s love is God Himself, and His love is eternal, perfect, and without any conditions whatsoever.

Notice I did not say you would necessarily enjoy life because He loves you; nor did I say that God would overlook transgressions. Disobedience is a matter of grave consequence for the Christian. Yet even in our foolishness and sin, the Lord is our loving Father, who faithfully disciplines His children. We must always remember that sin does not affect God’s boundless love for us.

The heavenly Father has always loved you, and He always will. As you release any misconceptions about His everlasting love, you’ll be able to rejoice under His canopy.

Happy Valentines Day.


If Our Spiritual Baggage Was Visible

Before I moved from Florida I had the opportunity to lead a divorce recovery group for my church. This group of people had experienced a significant loss in their life through divorce. Everyone, including myself, at one time went through a personal inventory to try and determine why the divorce happened as well as asking ourselves the age old question, “What did I do wrong?”

The divorce recovery group was in a setting that offered privacy, understanding and no condemnation. Throughout the meetings the participants discovered they were carrying a load of guilt. Their immediate guilt stemmed from the divorce but upon further reflection and prayer each individual realized they were dragging around spiritual baggage from the past that affected their lives without them fully realizing it.

If our spiritual baggage were visible, do you know what you would see? Suitcases of guilt, bulging with binges, blowups, and compromises. All of the participants had serious regrets about their divorce and wanted so badly to fix things but realized they couldn’t until such time as they became more stable in their own lives. Until that happened they carried around a bag of paralyzing guilt.

What were the keys among the group members to reestablishing a sense of worthiness and peace? Accepting the truth about themselves and through prayer and repentance making lasting changes in how they deal with friends and loved ones. What does God’s word say about all of this?

In Psalm 23:3 David said it like this, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness.” The path of righteousness is a narrow, winding trail up a steep hill.  At the top is a cross. At the base of the cross are bags, countless bags full of innumerable sins. Calvary is the compost pile for guilt.  Would you like to leave yours there as well?

We’re all human and make mistakes. God knows this and gives us the opportunity to change with His help. If God spoke to you, you’d probably hear Him say something like, “I love you and you can do this.” Our God is a loving God and heavenly Father. The next time you find yourself in a situation like we’ve described above or situations dealing with family or friends, take it to your Father in heaven who knows exactly what you need. His guidance is priceless!


Knowing His Heart Through Meditation

Here are some fundamentals of effective meditation. And, no I am not talking about the kind where you sit around and hum a word or worship Buddha. What I am talking about are methods of praying and worshiping God. Our daily love, worship and admiration of God is key to our walk with the Lord. So, start your day alone with the Lord and follow these methods of being with Him.

Silence. What a struggle this one can be! How often do you sit down to pray and then end up doing all the talking yourself? The prophet Isaiah reminds us that “in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isa. 30:15). However, we’re not often quiet in prayer, are we? Sometimes we go on and on with our petitions but never actually give the Father an opportunity to respond.

How can we ever truly know His heart unless we stop and listen to Him in silence?

Self-Control. This simply means admitting to yourself that you need to deal with some things in your life. God is continually refining us and shaping us into the men and women He wants us to be. As we surrender more and more to His will, we need to acknowledge these areas are no longer ours to control.

Submission. Finally, believers must submit to God. All of the prayer and meditation in the world will not make a difference in your life if you have a rebellious spirit. He desires to know you, use you, and mold you according to His best plan for you personally. This cannot happen if you do not intentionally submit to His work in your life.

Meditation can be hard work, but as with exercise, the rewards are well worth the effort. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, and make a commitment to start meditating today.