How to Make Good Choices [Blog]

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How to Make Good Choices

Our world is a complex place. Life’s choices have become increasingly challenging to make.  Discernment is harder than it used to be.  Rather than life presenting us with clearly black and white issues, it seems that society lives more in the marginal grays– where what is right and wrong, or best for us, isn’t always obvious.
That led me to begin searching to find out how many choices we actually make in the course of a day or week.  What I found surprised me.
Every day we make an enormous number of decisions.  So many, in fact, that the matter has caught the attention of social scientists.
It may surprise you that, according to researchers at respected Cornell University, a whopping 226.7 decisions are made each day by the average American… on food alone!  (Would you like fries with that?) What’s more, when taking into consideration all of the choices we make– whether conscious, subconscious,impulsive, logical, and complex decisions– up to a staggering 35,000 choices overall are reportedly made every 24 clock hours of the day for the average person! 

We Make “How Many” Decisions Everyday?

Possibly 35,000.  And if you think about it, it makes at least some sense.

After all, we decide things like when we will get up and whether we will snooze the alarm or not.  choice of toothpaste, if and when to brush our teeth, whether to use mouth wash, when to use mouth wash, and what brand of mouthwash to use– and how much.  Then there’s what we’ll wear.  Considering the fact that the average person wears at least 8 articles of clothing, that racks up another 6-8 decisions, depending on how you count it.  And that’s just before breakfast!
So if this 35,000 choices per day statistic is even remotely true, that calculates to past 2 Million in the average lifetime!  And even if it were much less, you’re still talking in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands per person!

Making Good Decisions is Critical. But How?

With this many choices on the line, we had better learn more about how to make good ones.  This is especially true for the Christian, as we are told in scripture to be discerning about everything (Phil 1:9-10) and to pay close attention to our thinking (2 Cor. 10:5). With these truths in mind, let’s look at some helpful perspectives on how to make decisions as a disciple of Jesus.

1. Identify Whether the Issue is a Matter of Choice, Conscience, or Conviction

2. Then determine the correct course of action, based on the following decision-making grid.


Though I have heard a number of approaches to decision-making, I felt more work needed to be done to help us in areas where believers often disagree and where important life choices must be made.  Decisions, overall, and issues of ethics and morality in particular, are becoming tougher and tougher to discern.
There seemed to be times when the choice models to which I’d been exposed simply didn’t get the job done.  Either the situations required so many exceptions and entailments that the issues overwhelmed the model– or the categories provided for decision-making weren’t a good fit.  Here’s an alternate decision-making model I hope will help.
Everything begins by figuring out what type of decision is being presented to you.  That is what dictates how you will approach the situation.  And if this seems complicated– it really isn’t.  This simply involves working to classify everything into one of three simple biblical categories.  Let’s look more closely at the grid I created that builds off of earlier models I have seen.  What follows isn’t inerrant, but it’s a start and the best insight I have at this point in my thinking.
Here we go.


Three Classifications of Choices

I separate choices into three categories: Matters of Conviction, Conscience, and Choice.  I think these closely mirror what we see in scripture.

  1. Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly and/or explicitly, and where prohibitions or principles are obvious to Christians who take the Bible seriously.  In these cases, there is no discernment needed as to God’s Will or what to choose… just the decision to be obedient.
  2. Matters of Conscience are issues that may or may not be addressed explicitly in scripture, or that are left purposefully without specific prohibitions or commands, and are especially instances when ‘principles’ need to be clarified and weighed out.  Often these are issues that depend on a myriad of circumstances or mitigating factors that, when those variables are taken into consideration, make a decision a good one or bad one.  But because discernment is needed, and since believers are all at different levels of maturity and Bible knowledge, these are issues where devoted believers can differ (especially when certain groups’ teachings on these issues seem to conflict with scripture) and when, despite the issue being clear to our understanding, a significant group of Christians can knowingly differ on the issue.
  3. Matters of Choice are issues where scripture is silent or provides no directives. It is when the Bible’s teaching is not obligatory and when believers seem to be given permission to do as they choose.

These are quick sketches of each of the three categories explored below.  Their brevity is helpful in some ways, but the simplicity itself raises more questions.  So let’s do a deep dive in each category to see how this approach might help our decision-making, so we can make better choices!


Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conviction”

Matters of Conviction are clearly important.  These are issues where we have genuine and deeply-held beliefs.
Matters of Conviction involve decision-making on issues of moral or theological importance.  Non-moral or theological choices aren’t relevant here because, since they aren’t moral or theological– they do not rise to the level of a biblical conviction.  That is why these matters are so important.
Two Components of a Matter of Conviction
Matters of Conviction are issues that the Bible addresses clearly (say it with me) “when proper Bible interpretation occurs.”  So there are two issues that dictate what I consider to be a Matter of Conviction: (1) Any serious Christian would consider the issue to be one clearly addressed in scripture.  The Bible addresses the matter and teaches on it, usually explicitly– or in such an implicit way that the biblical teaching can’t be missed. That’s the first issue: That the issue is clearly addressed in scripture, be it by implicit principle or explicitly.
The second issue (2) related to a Matter of Conviction is that, when proper biblical interpretation occurs by persons who have a high regard for the authority of scripture, the issue is considered clear to all.  Note that, because of the continual, even incessant assault on the authority of scripture in society and, indeed, in our pulpits and even some seminaries, matters that should be considered clear issues of “conviction” are harder to identify than they should be.  Even so, the position taken in this blog post is that scripture is authoritative and binding, specifically inspired, infallible, and yes– inerrant.  This model of making choices begins to break down when scripture is questioned, simply because the standard is then relativized and the goal posts are moved.  So let’s assume, at least for the purposes of this discussion, that scripture is “true” (an assumption, by the way, that I always make).
Matters of Conviction include a great number of decisions in life.  These “should be” easy for Christians, and are for committed Christians.  These “Matters of Conviction,” being both clearly taught in scripture AND when understood by a person who holds to the authority of scripture, are nothing more than areas of obedience or disobedience to scripture. There is no real question as to whether the action or issue is moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad.  There is no question whether the teaching or doctrine should or shouldn’t be honored, because it is explicitly taught from the authoritative source of Christian revelation: scripture.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conviction
Any list such as this is bound to cause some people trouble.  That’s the nature of such things.  But leaving the issue to guessing is even worse.
One can only speak from his or her own perspective, so following is my personal perspective on what would constitute a Matter of Conviction and, as the Apostle Paul says, let each be “convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

  • Matters of Conviction includes areas where certain behaviors are scripturally forbidden, such as in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). It doesn’t get much clearer than “Thou shalt not…”   And of course, there are others.  The Ten Commandments are not the only behaviors or issues specifically forbidden or prescribed in the Bible.  A great number of other behaviors are also identified throughout scripture, things such as human sacrifice, practicing divination, being a medium (all in Deuteronomy 18). In these cases, both the explicit thing forbidden and things that flow from them, are clearly considered Matters of Conviction.  So, in this instance, it would be clear (a) in explicit and implicit scriptural teaching and also (b) to anyone committed to the authority of scripture, that everything directly forbidden (cold-blooded murder, theft, adultery, and others) in addition to those things explicitly implied in scripture (fraticide, cheating, consulting a spiritual medium, and the like) are legitimate Matters of Conviction.  But there are others.

 
Ten CommandmentsSource: ucg.org


 

  • Matters of Conviction aren’t only issues that are “illegal” and “immoral.”  Sometimes the Bible considers certain things wrong that are civilly legal.  The fact that these exist show how far culture has “slouched toward Gomorrah” in the words of former Supreme Justice nominee, Judge Robert Bork.   In this case, some laws (or absence of laws) in our society allow certain behaviors that, for Christians, are Matters of Conviction and clearly beyond the pale.  These, though sometimes debated by some, would include issues legal in some places, but nevertheless in clear or implicit violation of scriptural authority, like: marijuana use and the abuse of drugs and medication, drunkenness, abortion on demand, suicide or doctor-assisted suicide, unfair business dealings, sexual activity with deceased persons (on the rise in some places and not always outlawed) or the like.

Interestingly, agreement by Christians on what constitutes a Matter of Conviction isn’t necessary– though most Christians happen to agree.  This is seen in Galatians 2, and can be extrapolated in other instances, where scripture was clear but believers’ behavior and convictions differed.  In that passage, Paul challenged Peter who was “clearly in the wrong” and whose actions were hypocritical, in that Peter’s actions threatened Christian fellowship and even Christian doctrine.  Scripture was clear– and the issue was one of obedience, not a crisis of conscience.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for believers to differ on issues like these which should be “slam dunks” scripturally, but disagreements still happen. Even so, when the Bible is clear about certain issues, choices, or decisions, no discernment is needed.  Christians should be obedient to scripture and to the Lord, and stand one’s ground, in spite of whether others disagree.  The Holy Spirit will settle the rest.  No one made that more clear than the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:15 who said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”


 

Making Good Choices in “Matters of Conscience”

The second category in making good choices, it seems to me, are Matters of Conscience.
Matters of Conscience are as follows: (1) decision-making issues that may or may not be directly mentioned in scripture, and that (2) Christians may feel very strongly about, but that (3) reasonable Christians can conclude are either not explicit nor clear in scripture, requiring patience and humility toward others on such matters.
It’s important to keep in mind that Matters of Conscience are very much “important.”  The fact that devoted believers may disagree on some of these issues does not lessen their importance most of the time. These are issues where right and wrong are (or apparently are) in play. These are deeply personal issues of one’s conscience and stir our hearts profoundly in some cases.
When a Matter of Conscience exists– even if a person might agree that “good Christians can disagree” on the matter, that does not require the believer to weaken their own conviction…. but it does require us to “live and let live.”  In other words, these are issues that require both personal conviction on one’s values and interpersonal grace and humility at the same time.
Matters of Conscience are issues that trigger the conscience and that good biblical Christians can differ upon. These are areas where important issues are involved, including issues that may have some moral connotations, but that lack sufficient biblical clarity, or where nuances of language, cultural considerations, or challenges of interpretation might exist or are perceived to exist.
The danger here is that, because of people’s increasing lack of conviction about the authority of scripture in some areas of Christendom (among believers, churches, and theological institutions), there are those who would like to push nearly every issue into this category or lower.  Some Christians have even relegated things like “Jesus being the only way to God” (John 14:6) to an unnecessary and unbinding issue.  Even so, lest we drift into moral subterfuge and amorality, this category should be clearly defined and carefully understood.
On Matters of Conscience, the individual believer isn’t or shouldn’t be confused.  Because they are matters of “conscience,” the issues are mostly straight-forward, at least in our mind.  They evoke and stimulate our consciences, so we feel strongly about these issues.  That is not the issue.  The issue is that “our conviction is not shared by most/all.”  And, if pressed, a mature believer would admit that there may be room in these issues where scripture “could have been more clear” and, because it isn’t, there was an intentional decision to leave them as they are.
Possible Examples of Matters of Conscience

  • In the New Testament, though scripture seemed to be clear to many, still other believers with a different background had different opinions.  Some believers, primarily Jewish, sought circumcision (Galatians 5:1-4) while others did not.  Another instance was where some believers felt free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (Galatians 2:11-16) and others didn’t.  In other words, their consciences were each triggered differently about the same issue.  Though scripture was, over time, understood and increasingly clear, there was a time when devoted Jesus followers did not share the same view.  Both loved Christ and were committed to scripture.  Both thought they were right about the issue, but they generally gave other believers freedom of conscience.  And that’s why these are called Matters of Conscience.

Other issues about which Christians disagree, though scriptural teaching in some form or another exist, are:

  • Choices about social drinking
  • Tithing
  • Dancing
  • Immigration issues
  • Some (perhaps not all) political planks in different political parties’ platforms (minimum wage-fair wage disputes, social justice causes, etc.)
  • Recycling
  • Psychiatric Care issues
  • Stances on ‘Climate Change’ as an ideology
  • About a million more.

Personally, I have strong convictions, one side or the other, on these issues.  And I believe that scripture touches these matters.  But I also understand these issues, at least “some of them,” can be understood differently by other well-meaning and devoted believers.  And while they may strongly believe I am wrong on some of these choices, and me-them, I still extend to them courtesy, mercy, and grace– even though these can remain areas of disagreement and even debate.
What should we do in these instances?
Believers should:
• Know their positions on these issues
• Uphold-live their beliefs and honor their consciences
• Be prepared to discuss their positions
• Patiently give love and honor to those who differ (1 Cor 8; 1 Cor 10:29)


 

Making Good Choices in “Matters of Choice”

The final category in my thinking about “making good choices” is called “Matters of Choice.”
In Matters of Choice, we are faced with issues where no clear scriptural issue is at play. These are general issues of importance to some people, including strong importance, but that are not addressed in scripture or that scripture gives freedom of expression. Some people feel strongly enough about these issues that they seek to elevate their status to higher levels, but in truth, they aren’t.
Note here that– being a Matter of Choice doesn’t mean that these aren’t important, or that they’re not worth sweating, or that I am undervaluing them. Indeed, almost every (not all, but many) decisions– even Matters of Choice– are important, at least to the person making the choice…. but here, I’m not saying “Matters of Insignificance,” but rather, Choice.  And as such, this simply means that there are no explicit or implicit scriptural prohibitions or commands that require our obedience.
Think of it this way.  God leads us in choices.  Sometimes God even gives us freedom in what to choose, without much or any direction.  But these can still be important decisions.  Where OR IF you go to college, for example, is an important decision. But it’s not a scriptural one.  What you wear is important– but it is a matter of choice.  Only if issues of modesty enter in does it move to another category, such as a Matter of Conscience or Matter of Conviction.  Normally, things like these, though important, are matters of choice.  You are free to do what you want.  And as the Apostle Paul said, these things shouldn’t all be taken lightly (though some choices can and should be taken lightly).
Paul’s admonition was to say:

“I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23).

Possible Examples of Matters of Choice

  • Whether women wear pants or skirts/dresses or makeup or jewelry (some take issue with this based on certain scriptural passages that are misunderstood as prohibitions)
  • Whether you buy expensive items or not (meaning, cost of something isn’t necessarily a sign of materialism in and of itself)
  • Choosing to be vegan-vegetarian (or Paleo or any other version of food intake) (Mark 7:15-19; simple video explanation on why it is a choice and not a doctrinal issue of conviction or conscience)
  • The choice of using “paper or plastic or a reusable shopping bag” at a grocery store (as some have made all environmental issues issues bearing more importance than given in scripture)
  • Celebrating Christmas and one’s position on Santa Claus (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • One’s approach about handling the Easter Bunny issue with their children or church (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • Dressing up or not dressing up for Halloween (important to many, but not scriptural issue per se)
  • Where you go to college and if you go to college (not a true moral issue, but an important decision or matter of choice)
  • Whether you go to one Bible-believing church or denomination or a different Bible-believing church or denomination
  • Whether you use one type of Bible translation or another (any situation where a ‘translation’ is seen as the accurate one that “cannot ever be changed” like was discussed with the ESV recently and that is held by some KJV-only groups)
  • And all other issues of choice

What to Do: Believers should:
• Ensure the issue is indeed only a matter of choice (Rom 14:5)
• Live in freedom (Gal 5:1)
• Don’t allow your freedom in Christ to be taken by others who self-righteously judge your legitimate freedom in Christ Col. 2:16-17
• Personally decide if and when to temporarily and situationally suspend your freedom for weaker Christians (1 Cor 8:9)
• Be patient with immature believers and don’t argue over the issues (Rom 14:1)
• Don’t accept or tolerate the self-righteous judgment of others in these areas where no accusations should exist (Rom 14:10)
• Central in all these issues is that Christians love one another (John 13:34-35) and not judge one another (Col 2:16-17)


Summary

These are principles of how to make good choices.  By using this one or by creating your own that corresponds with scripture, you can quickly assess how to approach different decisions, especially when you have the opportunity to think about choices that need to be made.
By simply asking yourself, “Is this a Matter of Conviction (a truly non-negotiable biblical truth issue), a Matter of Conscience (an important issue that the Bible addresses, but that we must carefully weigh using our conscience and discernment of broader biblical principles), or a Matter of Choice (either a trivial issue or a more important issue, but one that the Bible provides no compelling prohibition or command for, providing you the opportunity to decide for yourself, without the need for others’ condemnation),  you can then go into each category and use the suggested principles to help you in decision making– so you can make good choices!
If you found this helpful, please share it!
 


Sources
Food and Other Choices Made Daily: (Wansink and Sobal, 2007)
Total number of choices daily: (https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders)
 


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Episode 030, How to Know God's Will

Knowing God’s Will is one of the most important yet most vexing issues in the Christian life. People feel the need to know God and to understand what He is doing in their lives, but are often at a loss about how to discern His Voice. How does God speak to us? How do we know God’s Will? What are the mechanics of it all? Are there sources of information that aren’t reliable from a Christian perspective? Why? What can we trust and what understandings should govern our discernment of God’s Will?

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Discernment

 
Discernment
When Christians need to make decisions, they often have a hard time understanding what is going on inside of them, leading to greater uncertainty.
For example, some struggle with Visible Signs they are ‘seeing’ (circumstantial evidence for/against their decision). Others don’t know how to read their Instincts or Intuition. Still others don’t know how to read the internal Cautions generated within their emotions or spirit. These cautions often come to us in the versions of “fear,” “dread,” or “uncertainty.”
I hope this helps.
DISCERNING WHAT TO DO
Let’s say you need to make a decision (X). You are unsure what to do. First, let’s take up this matter of Visible Signs, which can be confusing…
1. REGARDING VISIBLE SIGNS. The bad news is that when we get down the spiritual road toward maturity, we are given fewer and fewer visible signs about what to do. Meaning, outward, clear, visible signs are harder and harder to come by. That’s because God knows that we know His voice already and those signs are simply unnecessary at this point in our spiritual development and, ironically, also less reliable than Him speaking to us quietly within our spirits.
So don’t let the silence frustrate you– it’s an indicator that you don’t need outward signs anymore. John 10:27.

2. REGARDING INSTINCTS or INTUITION. Let’s assume that you are seeking God’s Will and walking in His Spirit (though this is a big assumption, we have to start somewhere). If you have gotten this far down the road toward your decision, and if you have been led here without clear internal warnings that you were going the wrong way and planning on doing the wrong thing– then you absolutely MUST trust your instincts now more than ever.
Here’s what I mean: Sometimes Christians pray and then feel led to do something– and this something is (let’s assume, unless you realize it’s not) from a healthy and holy motive. So they move forward and God apparently blesses the idea and things begin to unfold toward the realization of that dream and vision. But somewhere along the way, things hit a rough spot (and what you thought was crystal clear is now cloudy). It’s at this time that many Christians begin to question their entire discernment apparatus and their ability to hear God’s voice and to know His Will.
Point: God WANTS you to know His Will– more than even YOU want to know it! God wants you to know His voice. And the general demeanor of the Spirit-filled and obedient believer is “GO.” Believers should be seeking to conquer more ground for the Kingdom and Glory of God. So, you should actively seek to advance your life and opportunities for good and the like UNLESS AND UNTIL the Holy Spirit cautions you or stops you.
At a time like this, when you’re ‘that close’ to pulling the trigger and making a big decision, that’s not the time to second-guess your entire discernment apparatus. If you have faithfully prayed and sought the Lord “the best you knew how” and in that faithful pursuit of this dream, you did not have clear and obvious cautions– then you move forward in the way you were going, with CONFIDENCE.
3. DISCERNING CAUTIONS. That leads me to my final test of discernment (not that there’s not a lot more that could be said, but I’m gonna simplify it): YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY *EXACTLY* WHAT EMOTIONS YOU ARE FEELING BEFORE YOU MOVE FORWARD. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF “FEAR” ABOUT THIS, OR A SENSE OF “DREAD,” OR A SENSE OF “UNCERTAINTY?”
HERE’S HOW YOU WORK THROUGH THOSE.
A) FEAR: Fear isn’t of God. So when you feel ‘fear,’ that should not keep you from acting. So you musn’t let fear imprison you. Anytime I feel like moving forward in a decision but ‘fear’ exists, I put the pedal to the metal. I speed up; I don’t slow down. Then I brace for impact, because Satan may throw some stuff at me to make me question my decision.
B) DREAD (or ‘foreboding’): If you sense “dread” or a sense of foreboding– a deep, unshakeable and heavy, threatening sense of weighty, immobilizing dread… THAT “is” the Holy Spirit. In such a case, He is bearing witness in your spirit against a decision or action. When I sense this emotion, it’s clearly a divine warning.
But dread and fear or insecurity are different things. Dread ‘feels’ heavier and is unmistakably different than fear. Dread is always a “no go” for me.
C) UNCERTAINTY: Uncertainty can go one of two ways, and here’s how I approach it. (1) If the uncertainty was from the beginning, and if the uncertainty had been gnawing at me “all along” and it was something I couldn’t shake, in spite of ignoring it– and if I simply had (read this closely) a constant, unremitting sense of uncertainty… that generally means “WAIT.”
You then say, wait until ‘when?’ Answer: Wait until the uncertainty leaves or don’t do it. Uncertainty (when it manifests this way) is often an indicator of a lack of faith. So, when you have it– it doesn’t mean it’s not God’s Will… it just means that you lack the degree of faith to see it through, so whether it’s right or wrong is immaterial… because when the heat is on, you’ll fold… so don’t do it if that ‘all along’ type of uncertainty was there.
(2) If the uncertainty is a recent artifact that, hereforeto, did not trouble you– then you’re probably simply at a crisis of faith, and that’s more of an internal psychological matter of exercising faithful action than it is anything else. In other words, the uncertainty is just unexercised faith. Once you make the decision, you should then have a sense of increasing peace and internal witness that you did the right thing– whether or not the outward circumstances worked for you or not.
The only exception to this is, if after you make an initial decision, if you had a profound and absolutely unmitigating weight on your chest (when you SHOULD BE gaining freedom and liberty and excitement), then in that case, you misread your uncertainty. All other times, the uncertainty will evaporate after the decision is made, and you’ll begin to have joy and excitement about what God is getting ready to do.
One last thing– and it’s one of the most important.

Once all the facts above are considered, if you decide not to do it– there’s nothing lost (but nothing gained)… life goes on as it has. But IF YOU MOVE FORWARD, the best and only advice I’d give you concerning God’s Will is:
(IF YOU DECIDE TO DO IT) **Make a decision, then MAKE IT WORK.
After the decision is made (much like a marital decision), you don’t look back, you don’t second-guess… you simply ASSUME it was/is God’s perfect Will, then you FORCE IT to work.


I hope this is encouraging to you. It’s worked for me consistently.

God's Modus Operandi (Part 5 of 5)

God reveals His will to us in several different ways. We need not be confused about hearing His voice, as it comes through several different avenues.
I’ve spent four weeks building a foundation for how to know God’s will, focusing on ten keys to understand how God works in our lives and in the world. This week, I’ll conclude this series in talking about how we can hear God’s voice.
We must learn how to see God at work if we are to cooperate with His will. God isn’t illogical. He generally, most of the time, works within our realm of understanding. When you’re trying to discern God’s will, use your brain. THINK. Use pro-con lists. Study. Read. Think deeply. Meditate. Put two and two together. God can also speak through your five senses. What you see may be what He wants you to know. What you hear may be what He is telling you to do. The senses send data to the heart and mind and through those stimuli, God often speaks to us by allowing our minds and consciences to react and give us important feedback.
God can also speak through our intuition and instincts. At times, you may just have an inner awareness, an inner knowing, that resonates and gives you the needed impression of what to do. Your intuition and instincts should not be your first consideration. Don’t live and make all decisions based on feelings, because they can be unreliable. Your conscience is another internal guiding system Go can speak through. You conscience is not the same as the Holy Spirit’s guidance, because it can be corrupted or seared. Still, God can use it in the lives of Christians and non-Christians.
Outside of yourself, God also speaks through other Christians and through His Word. God may send a message through your pastor, the counsel of others, and messages or sermons. Most of us disregard these sources and don’t listen very well. Consistent study of the Bible finds its way into our thinking patterns and Truth regenerates and renews he mind day by day. The Bible may not have one specific verse that peaks directly on every issue of life, but over time you will develop Godly wisdom. You must UNDERSTAND His Word properly AND apply it properly.  Tagging Bible verses on your decisions and baptizing your actions isn’t what I’m talking about.  It’s being responsible with scriptural truth (2 Timothy 3:16).
Finally, God speaks through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and can use the consequences of your actions to teach you. The Holy Spirit’s voice may not wave a huge banner in your face, but you can still hear it through prayer and through silence. Consequences are the last in this list because they are the method of God speaking to look to last. Satan can also influence circumstances, so looking at these external things can be very unreliable.

So…what do you need to do differently so that God can work greater things in your life?

God's Modus Operandi (Part 4 of 5)

As we saw last week, sin plays a significant role in our understanding of how God works. While sin does distort our spirit and soul, we are not beyond His will. God does not dismiss you because of your sin or sinful nature.
You can still understand how God works and should see to understand Him and know His will. These last three keys will complete the foundation of understanding how God works.
First, despite even significant errors in judgment and sinful choices on our part, God still isn’t finished with you. Look through your Bible and you’ll find countless stories of men and women who have sinned significantly and still been used by God, such as Samson, David, and Elijah.
We may have detours and some may limit our overall effectiveness. We may not be as great later as before, but some of these have a greater influence later.
Secondly, God intends for you to learn from your mistakes and may possibly even do greater things through you than you may have done without them. It took Saul’s and Moses’ murder of others for God to turn them around…and He used them more after the fact than before.
Will you lay aside the past (good OR bad) and press on towards the mark?
Finally, sometimes forfeiting God’s will means you must forfeit some thing or freedoms you hold dear. It may cost you dearly to follow God, to seek Him and His will, but the riches are inestimable.
The riches and rewards of following God’s will are more than we could imagine, just as Hi will is greater than what we imagine. Sin may derail us from God’s will, but it may also be the avenue He uses to turn us towards Him.
These ten keys we’ve discussed over the past three weeks are the foundation for knowing God’s will. They are necessary to understand if one is to know and do God’s will.

The second in a 5-part series on understanding God’s ways of working before seeking to discern His will for your life.

God's Modus Operandi (Part 3 of 5)


Last week, we looked at three keys to understanding how God works. We learned that God has a plan for your life and for mine and that He can and wants to work in your life.
This week, we’ll discuss four further keys which are also necessary to understand God’s will.
First, sin can keep you from discerning God’s will for your life. Sin distorts the mind and psyche.  It affects all parts of your soul and spirit. Spiritually, your spirit grieves or quenches the Holy Spirit when in sin (Ephesians 4:30).
Your soul, made up of your mind, will, and emotions, is also deeply affected by sin. Your thinking is messed up because it has been conformed to the world and not transformed by the work and will of God (Romans 12:2). Your will is bent on choosing something other than God’s will. Your emotions have loyalties to your own will and to your own pleasure and are influenced by the sensations of the body.
Sin keeps you from discernment.  Until you get rid of it, you can’t be sure about God’s direction most of the time.
Second, part of God’s will is absolute and part of it is conditional. Salvation is absolute. If you’re saved, God will keep you and has determined that He will do what’s necessary to clean up your life (Romans 8:30; Philippians 1:6). God has open this door which no man can shut. If God wants it to come to pass, Heaven and Hell have to stand down at His authority (Revelation 3:7-8).
You’re not entitled to anything: a great job, a happy marriage, healthy kids, financial independence, etc., none of it is promised to you.  Don’t expect a spiritual handout.  Work as if it all depends on you; pray as if it all depends on God– and trust Him for the results.
Third, if you don’t follow God’s will, someone else surely will and they’ll receive what God intended for you. Just look at the life of Moses. When Moses disobeyed, Joshua received the blessing of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. The Parable of the Talents also shows this (Matthew 25:14ff). He who has much, even more will be given.
There are no passes.  Obedience is what He blesses.  I don’t want the blessings of God to pass me by because of unfaithfulness on my part.  That would be too painful.
It’s been said that there are stockpiled riches in Heaven that are unclaimed blessings that are left behind because of Christians’ unfaithfulness.  Don’t let it be said of you.
Fourth, those faithful with the opportunities God gives them will receive grater blessings in the future. In Mathew 25, we see that God’s blessings pile up, they don’t get exhausted. What God is saying about His blessings: “There’s PLENTY more where that came from.”
He who is faithful in little will be made faithful in much… greater responsibilities and greater privileges (Luke 16:10-12).  It’s your choice– will you choose to be responsible with what little or much you have?  Most people are content to be a daddy’s boy.  Don’t live on your parents’ prestige.
God intends blessing for you, but sin often distorts our perception of God’s working. If we fail to follow God’s will, He will bless others instead. Understanding God’s good intentions for you as well as His command that you follow His will are mandatory to hearing His voice and hearing His will for your life.
Next week, we’ll look at three final keys to understanding how God works. These ten keys total are the foundation to knowing God’s will. Grasping these keys will show how God works in your life to reveal His will for you.

God's Modus Operandi (Part 2 of 5)

Many Christians worry and wonder why they can’t discern the Will of God and hear the Voice of God. One of the main reasons Christians can’t discern the will of God is because they don’t understand how God works– they don’t “get” His M.O., God’s mode of operation.
The next three parts of this series will focus on understanding the way that God works before seeking to understand God’s will.  The reason for thinking this way is that many Christians obsess about God’s will without thinking about “how  God works” in the first place.  Growing in discernment of God’s will requires learning more about God and how He works in our lives today.
So, what truths do you need to understand about God’s Modus Operandi? 
First, recognize that God has an ideal plan for your life. I don’t want to get into the “God’s ‘perfect, permissible, prohibited’ will” kind of talk here, as if God technically has two or three choices for your life (Plan A, B or C), because something strikes me as somewhat unrealistic or at least confusing about that.  But, however you slide it, God absolutely has a plan for you and your life.
Read Jer. 29:11-13. This passage tells us that God knows the plan, and that it’s a plan for good, not evil.  Plans, that if we participate with them, are to give us a hope and a future. You won’t find His closest intimacy and Will unless you seek Him with your whole heart.
Secondly,  God wants to do infinitely more in a person’s life than that person will usually allow Him to do. Read Ephesians 3:20; The Apostle Paul makes it clear that God is able do immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask for, more than your wildest imaginations could dream up. It’s not that God doesn’t want to work mightily in your life, it’s that you won’t let Him… or that you’re not doing what is necessary for that to come to pass.
You don’t get put on the spiritual shelf unless you choose to be– I think that, for 15 months as a young Christian, I was “on the shelf.”  I wouldn’t go forward with Him– so He was finished with me until I gave Him more of me.  It’s not that you ever get more of God.. It’s that He gets more of you.
Thirdly, God wants you to know and obey His will for your life. God doesn’t want His Will for you to be a secret. But, then again, He won’t cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6).  He knows if you’re ready to go to the next level, and He won’t tell you that next step unless you really are.  If the answer in your heart is not a constant “yes” then I wouldn’t expect Him to show you His plan… If you aren’t going to obey His Will or want to look it over before doing it, then you’re not ready for prime time.
Keeping these first three keys in mind is vital in understanding God’s will for Your own life. First, that God has a plan, an ideal plan, specifically for you. Second, that God can and desires to do more with you than you could dream of. If God’s not working with you, examine your own attitudes toward Him; God can work mightily in Your life. And thirdly, God wants you to know His will. He’s not trying to keep it a secret, but He does know if you’re ready to take the next step and won’t let you take it unless you are.
God can and wants to work in your life, in great ways.  In our next blog, we’ll discuss four more keys to understanding how God works.

God's Modus Operandi (Part 1 of 5)

A major source of anxiety for many Christians today is how to know and do the will of God.
How can I know what God really wants me to do? How do I seek and follow His will?
Understanding God’s Modus Operandi is a vital foundation for discerning His purpose and will for your life. Modus Operandi, Latin for “mode of operation” refers to the way God works; how He operates. When you know the ways of God, meaning the template on which He restricts Himself, you begin to put the pieces of reality together and understand His workings. 
Then you can begin  to really understand how God works and begin to make serious spiritual impact.
It’s been said that the problem with human life isn’t that it makes perfect sense or even that it doesn’t make sense at all; it’s that it almost makes sense.  With the conflicting factors of grace and mercy, free will and the effects of the Fall…how life should be and how we think life should be always miss the mark of how life actually is.
Most People Are Confused by God and by Life.  Here’s Why.
Unless you know the ways of God (Psalm 95:10) and not just see His works or actions– you’ll constantly be confused by life.  And… confused by God, too. 
God’s ways are evidenced by His actions, but His ways are more than merely His actions. God’s actions evidence His character and framework of operations, but His actions are not the equivalent of His ways.
God never intended for us to live in fear and doubt, feeling pressured to make a decision or postponing until the moment of opportunity is passed.  That’s not what He intended… but that’s how many people choose to live– be it due to ignorance or deliberately.  In truth, God intended that His followers would be able distinguish between God’s voice, their own voice, and the voice of Satan. Discernment in this takes time getting to know God and developing knowledge of God’s Word and how God works.
This series will address God’s ways before addressing how to hear and discern God’s will. Understanding God’s ways and how He works is foundational to being able to discern His will for your life.
Are you ready to better understand God?  Good.  Let’s roll.

Discernment: A Simple "How To" Guide

Cross RoadDiscernment
When Christians need to make decisions, they often have a hard time understanding what is going on inside of them, leading to greater uncertainty.
For example, some struggle with Visible Signs they are ‘seeing’ (circumstantial evidence for/against their decision). Others don’t know how to read their Instincts or Intuition. Still others don’t know how to read the internal Cautions generated within their emotions or spirit. These cautions often come to us in the versions of “fear,” “dread,” or “uncertainty.”
I hope this helps.
DISCERNING WHAT TO DO
Let’s say you need to make a decision (X). You are unsure what to do. First, let’s take up this matter of Visible Signs, which can be confusing…
1. REGARDING VISIBLE SIGNS. The bad news is that when we get down the spiritual road toward maturity, we are given fewer and fewer visible signs about what to do. Meaning, outward, clear, visible signs are harder and harder to come by. That’s because God knows that we know His voice already and those signs are simply unnecessary at this point in our spiritual development and, ironically, also less reliable than Him speaking to us quietly within our spirits.
So don’t let the silence frustrate you– it’s an indicator that you don’t need outward signs anymore. John 10:27.

2. REGARDING INSTINCTS or INTUITION. Let’s assume that you are seeking God’s Will and walking in His Spirit (though this is a big assumption, we have to start somewhere). If you have gotten this far down the road toward your decision, and if you have been led here without clear internal warnings that you were going the wrong way and planning on doing the wrong thing– then you absolutely MUST trust your instincts now more than ever.
Here’s what I mean: Sometimes Christians pray and then feel led to do something– and this something is (let’s assume, unless you realize it’s not) from a healthy and holy motive. So they move forward and God apparently blesses the idea and things begin to unfold toward the realization of that dream and vision. But somewhere along the way, things hit a rough spot (and what you thought was crystal clear is now cloudy). It’s at this time that many Christians begin to question their entire discernment apparatus and their ability to hear God’s voice and to know His Will.
Point: God WANTS you to know His Will– more than even YOU want to know it! God wants you to know His voice. And the general demeanor of the Spirit-filled and obedient believer is “GO.” Believers should be seeking to conquer more ground for the Kingdom and Glory of God. So, you should actively seek to advance your life and opportunities for good and the like UNLESS AND UNTIL the Holy Spirit cautions you or stops you.
At a time like this, when you’re ‘that close’ to pulling the trigger and making a big decision, that’s not the time to second-guess your entire discernment apparatus. If you have faithfully prayed and sought the Lord “the best you knew how” and in that faithful pursuit of this dream, you did not have clear and obvious cautions– then you move forward in the way you were going, with CONFIDENCE.
3. DISCERNING CAUTIONS. That leads me to my final test of discernment (not that there’s not a lot more that could be said, but I’m gonna simplify it): YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY *EXACTLY* WHAT EMOTIONS YOU ARE FEELING BEFORE YOU MOVE FORWARD. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF “FEAR” ABOUT THIS, OR A SENSE OF “DREAD,” OR A SENSE OF “UNCERTAINTY?”
HERE’S HOW YOU WORK THROUGH THOSE.
A) FEAR: Fear isn’t of God. So when you feel ‘fear,’ that should not keep you from acting. So you musn’t let fear imprison you. Anytime I feel like moving forward in a decision but ‘fear’ exists, I put the pedal to the metal. I speed up; I don’t slow down. Then I brace for impact, because Satan may throw some stuff at me to make me question my decision.
B) DREAD (or ‘foreboding’): If you sense “dread” or a sense of foreboding– a deep, unshakeable and heavy, threatening sense of weighty, immobilizing dread… THAT “is” the Holy Spirit. In such a case, He is bearing witness in your spirit against a decision or action. When I sense this emotion, it’s clearly a divine warning.
But dread and fear or insecurity are different things. Dread ‘feels’ heavier and is unmistakably different than fear. Dread is always a “no go” for me.
C) UNCERTAINTY: Uncertainty can go one of two ways, and here’s how I approach it. (1) If the uncertainty was from the beginning, and if the uncertainty had been gnawing at me “all along” and it was something I couldn’t shake, in spite of ignoring it– and if I simply had (read this closely) a constant, unremitting sense of uncertainty… that generally means “WAIT.”
You then say, wait until ‘when?’ Answer: Wait until the uncertainty leaves or don’t do it. Uncertainty (when it manifests this way) is often an indicator of a lack of faith. So, when you have it– it doesn’t mean it’s not God’s Will… it just means that you lack the degree of faith to see it through, so whether it’s right or wrong is immaterial… because when the heat is on, you’ll fold… so don’t do it if that ‘all along’ type of uncertainty was there.
(2) If the uncertainty is a recent artifact that, hereforeto, did not trouble you– then you’re probably simply at a crisis of faith, and that’s more of an internal psychological matter of exercising faithful action than it is anything else. In other words, the uncertainty is just unexercised faith. Once you make the decision, you should then have a sense of increasing peace and internal witness that you did the right thing– whether or not the outward circumstances worked for you or not.
The only exception to this is, if after you make an initial decision, if you had a profound and absolutely unmitigating weight on your chest (when you SHOULD BE gaining freedom and liberty and excitement), then in that case, you misread your uncertainty. All other times, the uncertainty will evaporate after the decision is made, and you’ll begin to have joy and excitement about what God is getting ready to do.
One last thing– and it’s one of the most important.

Once all the facts above are considered, if you decide not to do it– there’s nothing lost (but nothing gained)… life goes on as it has. But IF YOU MOVE FORWARD, the best and only advice I’d give you concerning God’s Will is:
(IF YOU DECIDE TO DO IT) **Make a decision, then MAKE IT WORK.
After the decision is made (much like a marital decision), you don’t look back, you don’t second-guess… you simply ASSUME it was/is God’s perfect Will, then you FORCE IT to work.


I hope this is encouraging to you. It’s worked for me consistently.