Showing posts with label Discernment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discernment. Show all posts

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Whose Are You?

Oh LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me... For You forged my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well...       Psalm 139

Identity marks us, affirms us, singles us out, gives specific details about us. We have many pieces of paper that identify us like driver's license, Social Security number, health insurance cards, military identification, work badges, car registrations, credit cards, business cards; we have official certificates that verify birth, marriage, divorce, and death. We use pictures and numbers and computer chips to create our identity, to track our likes, activity, timeliness, finances, and even our animals. Yet, with all that information floating around, we are "prone to wander" and feel lost.

Despite our vanity and ego-centric nature, humanity is both fragile and broken. Etched deep within our DNA the need to believe in a greater power exists, even if we try deny this. Psalm 139 never gets old. Take a few minutes and read the complete text. Woven into being, created in the likeness of God, intimately known by Him barely begin to describe you and me in Christ. 
"Often in quiet meditation and reflection we discover that we are more than our individual selves and come to realize who we really are. We slowly learn to see, within our very own hearts, the reflection of the One who breathed life into us...who loved us before we were born and before we could love ourselves...We are defined by something deeper and wider..."                    Henri Nouwen, Discernment
God breathes life into our souls, reflects the essence of love, offers each of us grace. He surrounds us, protects us, nourishes us. Without God, our identity is just letters and numbers. Nouwen says, "Our true identity is found in God, who created us in the divine image. We are bearers of God's image and spirit." So, whose are you? Do the people you meet every day know your "real identity" or is that a secret? ~dho

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Good Success in Obedience

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 
Joshua 1:8 ESV  [Scripture links:]

"To act or not to act. To wait or to move. to speak or remain silent. All these can be faithful acts. Living in the presence of God and trusting the Spirit helps us discern right action in everyday life." Henri Nouwen, Discernment

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me an excerpt from a book her Life Group is studying. The book, The Joshua Code by O.S. Hawkins, pastor, author and president of Guidestone Financial Resources, gives 52 Scripture verses that can help the Christian meditate on God's word and keep it close 'day and night'. As our series on discernment nears its end, there are some worthy thoughts from verse 33 in The Joshua Code. First, note the 'Book of the Law' refers to Scripture and is likely referring to Genesis through Deuteronomy. Historically, the Torah consists of the first five books of our Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, which many scholars credit Moses with writing. Secondly, good success is defined as "the ability to find the will of God for your life...and then doing it!" * The Life Application Study Bible explains good success in this context as to "obey God's law, to read and study His Book of Instruction". Discernment must become a way of Christian living, a daily spiritual discipline that seeks, listens, and knows the Spirit's leading.

In seeking God's purpose, too often we get distracted or disillusioned, lost or lethargic. We decide either God's purpose is too grand and we are too small, or we ignore God's plan and choose easier lives of indifference and complacency. Hawkins writes, "Our completed purpose, in the eyes of God, will be to move beyond simply reading and studying the Bible, to an act of obedience as we put these words into practice in our own experience." Ah, and this where it is easiest to make excuses for lack of time or energy, lack of ability or passion; we simply dismiss the Holy Spirit's urgings. Nouwen says, "Our spiritual task is to 'seize the time' - the right time for God's purpose here and now." Like Israel, we can come to the edge of the Promised Land, and we can either choose God's plan or falter, we can be obedient or hesitate. Hawkins concludes, "Here is the true success in life: to stay in the Word of God until we find the will of God so that we can walk in the ways of God. The Word. The will. The walk." ** What will you do? ~dho

* The Joshua Code, OS Hawkins, pg. 167
** The Joshua Code, OS Hawkins, pg. 170

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Sign-post People

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 NASB

The spiritual discipline of prayer and spending time in God's presence are foundational to hearing God's Voice, as well as essential components to serving where God chooses. Discernment can come through experiences and the sign-post people that God allows to cross our paths. Expected and unexpected people influence our journey. From parents to adults-like-parents, siblings to friends of siblings, school teachers and Sunday School teachers, friends and almost-friends, either brief or lasting, historical or current, God uses these encounters to speak to our lives.
God speaks regularly to us through the people who speak to us about the things of God. Henri Nouwen, Discernment
Just this week I saw a post on Facebook from someone I grew up with who was unexpectantly reunited with one of her sign-post people. Her mother recently entered a rehab facility after a fall, and the roommate happened to be her Pre-K Sunday School Teacher
She writes: I sat down and said hello and told her who I was. I mentioned her daughter's name... I told her I used to cry for my mother every Sunday, and she would sit with me at the bottom of the church stairs, waiting for mama. She never looked at me but said, "If you cried, I am sure I held you in my lap and hugged you".
How frequently we forget or dismiss or overlook our many God-appointments; these are the people God sends with words of encouragement, applause for effort, signposts pointing to truth, reminders of His presence, hugs for tears. 

Sign-post people offer new perspectives, ask different questions, and suggest other options. Sometimes they bring opportunities for us, like a chance to give more, to step outside ourselves, to sense another's loneliness, to hear a deeper need, to respond like Christ. God embraces us with love and encouragement but also has designed us for purpose - His purpose. God asks us to take our God-given talents, to reach out into the world, to share Jesus. 

Whether the sign-post marks the way with a stranger or friend, lasts for a season or a lifetime, comes full of mystery or simply as a reminder, God is speaking to you and me. Could it be a completely new direction? a familiar path with a new attitude? a change of location? a closer connection within a current community? a new passion? renewed passion? "God speaks regularly to us through people who talk to us about the things of God." (Nouwen)  Are we listening? Let's not miss our sign-post people! ~dho

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What is Prayer?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NASB

"The key to this home, this heart of God. is prayer." Foster

Prayer, by definition,  is an intercession, petition, or supplication. Scripture contains many prayers of faithful leaders and followers of God, prayers for healing, direction, peace, strength, forgiveness, wisdom, security, provision. Multiple passages in the Bible reveal Jesus alone in prayer and praying for others. Prayer comes from the lips of doubters and those in need, from hearts frozen with fear and unbelievers reborn, from the sick and weary, from those in desperate situations, from sinners like me. Believers are called to prayer, to never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to pray in the Spirit, to pray with perseverance, to pray for each other. Richard Foster in Sanctuary of the Soul calls prayer "interactive communication and communion with God".
"Prayer is change...interior transformation...into ministry..." Richard Foster, Prayer**
Prayer exceeds inward pleas in desperate times and evolves from a place deeper than need, comes from the soul's core where faith calls out to Hope! Our prayers call out to God exposing our broken hearts, our fragile egos, our emptiest places. Prayer should acknowledge complete dependence on God, and when words fail, the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) Spiritual posture of prayer must embody both humility and honesty, exhibit reverence for God's majesty and trust in God's mystery. Prayer should become the Christian's constant inside activity that is evidenced in outward living. Prayer should transform us into bearers of His Light. Holy Spirit, teach me to pray! ~dho

** I highly recommend Richard Foster's book, "Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 4

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
Bible issued to my father by US Military during WWII

Discernment of God's Voice requires a believer in Christ to seek and to study, to pray and to listen for His holy revelations. For the past three weeks the posts on How to Study the Bible have offered a general overview of how to approach a Scripture passage and various ways to read the Bible (and not intended to be an exhaustive lesson). Being in the word of God and walking with the Word of God is fertile ground for discernment. So what other resources or tools are available?

There are many translations and paraphrased versions of the Bible, as well as multiple Study Bible versions of these. A Study Bible provides cross-references of Scripture and a concordance (references to words or phrases used within the Bible), along with introductions to each Book of the Bible, commentary by Bible scholars, and other insights. Another helpful tool is a Bible dictionary which provides much information on words, names, places, and culture. Other references fall into the category of Bible encyclopedias which may provide more in depth biographies and historical contexts. (click here for a sample list of Bible Translations and Study Bibles)  

Readings of the classics and theologians of times past provide the learner with new insights and can provoke new questions. Researching writings and commentaries of Bible scholars, then and now, offers a deeper and wider perspective to Christianity. There are many authors, past and present, worthy of reading. Devotionals also help guide Bible Study. Today there are many good online sources that have tools to enhance studying God's word. (click here for some online sources:,,, Bible Study Tools, Google: How to study the BibleOswald Chambers, Priscilla Shirer) Whatever methods, most importantly the believer must seek to know God, study God's Holy Scriptures, call on the Holy Spirit for understanding, and apply the lessons. Study the Bible to embrace the promises of God, to encounter Christ, to experience the Holy Spirit. Christianity is not just knowing about God, but applying the truths to life. Christianity is living like Christ. ~dho

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 3

By Your words I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
Psalm 119:105 The Message

In our series on discernment, I have explored some suggestions of how to read the Bible. The phrase lectio divina describes a way to read the Bible and can be translated "divine reading" but more importantly means living the Holy Word. With 4 basic components, to read, to meditate, to pray, and to live, lectio divina is more than a spiritual discipline.
"Discernment requires not only reading with the heart but being willing to put down the book we are reading to just listen to what God is saying to us through its words. Henri Nouwen
Lectio divina is a way of reading spiritually, reading without a personal agenda and with a vulnerability of heart, reading while embracing Christ and exceeding the words. Lectio divina is a living reading, a way of reading that expects a living response. To be effective, we must consider the message within these ancient words. While reading, it is important to keep the words in context, to examine the historical settings, storylines, and cultures. The Holy Scriptures are sacred writings inspired by God, filled with vivid language full of poetry and metaphors and idioms that draw the reader into God's worldview, a living document for every age.
"Meditation is a process in which you struggle with the word of God that has entered your heart." Macrina Wiederkehr
Meditation on a Scripture passage helps the reader to understand how this piece of information relates to God's character and plan for humanity. To meditate on these words reveals connections between the moments recorded then and my circumstances now, the lesson centuries ago and a message for me, personally. Listening to the word of God with the heart opens the door for spiritual communion.

Prayer becomes the language of the heart, with its deepest agonies and richest joys. Often, prayer exceeds the vocabulary of our emotions. Wordless or word-full, prayer is relational and connects us to God. Reading His word combined with prayer, refines our access to God. As Jesus intercedes, we become engaged in deeper conversation with God. In praying the sacred words, we embrace God's message, we participate in His world, we live and love more.
"Lectio divina is not a methodical technique for reading the Bible. It is a cultivated, developed habit of living the text in Jesus' name." Eugene Peterson
To live the Word of God, we must take this unexplainable God into a complicated world. We must carry this extraordinary message into our ordinary moments. We are to live God's word through the chaos and beyond the suffering, above the distractions and against the opposition. Lectio divina means living the Holy Word. ~dho

Thursday, September 03, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 2

...the Spirit who is from God...not in words taught by human wisdom but in those taught by the Spirit, [teaches] combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 NASB

To study the Bible for knowledge alone defeats the purpose of God providing this gift of sacred writings. To study the Bible celebrates the "process of inspiration" by which God speaks, turning spiritual thoughts into spiritual words. As the Holy Spirit infuses the words, these Living words speak spiritual wisdom full of truth and life lessons full of hope. First, to study the Bible, the heart and mind and soul must be seeking God. Approach reading the Bible with an open heart.

As noted last week, various tools and techniques already exist to enhance Bible Study. Rick Warren's book, Bible Study Methods, offers a dozen different ways and is another good reference if you are looking for some new ideas. These blog posts could not possibly examine all the methods; instead, I offer you general suggestions of how to approach a Scripture passage. Consider the SOAP method: SCRIPTURE, OBSERVATION, APPLICATION, PRAYER. SCRIPTURE: Choose a Scripture. Read it and perhaps write it out. OBSERVATION: What is happening in the passage? Who is present? What is the message? What lesson is to be learned? APPLICATION: What does God want me to learn? How does this change me or my attitude or my actions? What will I do to implement this into my daily living? PRAYER: Say or write a prayer to God. Ask Him to open your eyes and make your heart tender to His guiding. Pray for insight into the message He is giving you.

Personally, as I read the Bible each day, I keep a devotional journal. Sometimes I write down a Scripture, some phrase from a devotional book that speaks to me, or a thought that comes to mind when reading. On the side, I sometimes jot a note of particular prayers for that day, while I keep many prayer requests in the back of my journal. There are times I journal my heart, give voice to the chaos or the celebrations deep inside. Other times, my soul writes a prayer, either in the form of a petition or a simple plea or a heart-full praise. Sometimes, I write nothing at all. God usually has a special word from Scripture for me as I start each new journal (whenever the other one ends). I put that in the front under 'journey notes'. At the end of that journey (whenever the journal is full), I look back through, finding ancient words living on new pages, grace exposing my heart, resolutions surrounding my prayers, words revealing new insights. Between the pencil marks and pasted quotes, beside the wordless-wonder and salty-prayers, within the Sacred Texts scribbled and the coffee drips, these pages retell my journey with a Holy God. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. 2 Timothy 3:17 The Message 
~ dho

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Read the Bible ~ Part 1

When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name, O LORD God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16 

Frequently I hear, "I want to read the Bible, but I'm not sure how or where to start." Whether you are part of a Bible Study group or using a devotional guide or simply reading these sacred writings, remember these ancient and fresh, living words reveal God's truth and plan for humanity, as well as, are a source of abundant life, strength, encouragement and joy. When reading a Scripture passage consider these components: Observation, Interpretation, Application. (Kay Arthur's "How To Study Your Bible" gives great information.) Ask yourself these questions: Who's present? What's happening? What does this passage mean? How does this apply to my life? These components create an "inductive approach" to studying and understanding, to examining God's word in detail, to discovering meaning in the words. This personal message from God to us allows us to be transformed through the Living Word. (next week I'll break down these components more.) A.W. Tozer's writes, "The word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality." Remember, reading the Bible is a process requiring spiritual discipline for the purpose of developing a more intimate relationship with God. God's word still speaks through the Scriptures. Are you listening?

While there is no one-way to read the Bible, let me offer you some solid choices. The Student Bible, with study notes from Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford, outlines 3 different Reading Plans. Track 1 is a two-week at a time commitment. There are 10 sections, each designed to be read in two week periods, and to give an overview and introduction to both the Old and New Testaments. Track 2, using a 6-month guideline, allows the reader to read at least one chapter from every book in the Bible. Track 3 embraces reading the entire Bible over a 3 year period. There are also guides available that would lead the reader to complete reading the Bible in one year. Remember, whatever path you choose, the purpose of reading the Bible is not about completing a task; rather, the goal is for spiritual development.

Another approach allows for the study of "themes" in the Bible, reading passages throughout the Scriptures such as grace, the nature of God, love, moral commandments, and many, many others. Another way to read would be to read sections or categories such as The Gospels or The Epistles (letters) in the NT; and in the OT, The Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), the History books (17 of these), Books of Poetry (5 of these), the Prophets (17 of these). No matter the course or track you choose, spending time in God's word is essential for spiritual maturity, but more than this, the word of God is to become part of us, part of our breathing and living and serving, part of each individual's response to God. Let your heart echo Jeremiah, "When Your words came, I ate them...". ~dho

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why Read the Bible?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

The next few weeks let's explore why Christians need to 
read the Bible, how to read the Bible, and the process of discernment when we study the Bible. People read the Scriptures in various ways and for a variety of reasons. Some search for truth, others seek ways to judge or defend a position; some read to acquire religious information, while others come to learn God's way and hear His instruction. The Bible, the inspired word of God, is a gift from God for the people. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Holy Scriptures reveal the character and holiness of God, record the history of God's prophecies and their fulfillment, teach the way of repentance and redemption through Christ, establish the guidelines for righteous and holy living, and define hope as God's promise of eternal life. Christ's words in John 5:39 say the Scriptures "bear witness about Me." These sacred writings still speak God's prophecies and remind us today that no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). From Genesis to Revelation, these words continue to bring God's message and reveal His purpose century after century, So shall My word be that goes out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty,, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it  (Isaiah 55:11). These ancient writings bring faithful instruction for every new day.

With precepts and promises, prophets and parables, God's story of redemption and restoration enfolds us. The living Word of God (Christ) reaches into the world, choosing you and me from beyond the pages of holy writings and through the ever-living word of God (the Bible). Within the pages of this ancient text, we discover God's ultimate plan for humanity. Jesus Christ, His Word in the flesh (John 1:14), proclaims God's truth and love and hope for the world. Reading this holy and living book gives us a taste of eternity and the goodness of God. From In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) to The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Revelation 22:21), the beginning to the end, God presence and power is Sovereign. Will you study God's teachings and promises? Will you learn God's character? Will you recognize God's leading? Immerse yourself in the Bible and let God's love embrace your life. ~dho

**next week: How to Read the Bible

Thursday, August 13, 2015

God's Way!

But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. 
Galatians 5:22-23 The Message 

After several weeks exploring the concepts of discernment and examining its purpose, the next question becomes, "What are the methods of discernment?". Reading God's word and spending time in prayer are essential activities. In order to recognize God's voice, we must know who God is and be in a relationship with Him. God reveals himself to the world through the Holy Scriptures, and communication with God comes through prayer. As this intimate, trusting relationship with God grows, we also begin to recognize God speaking through people and circumstances and opportunities. To listen to God's voice means being attuned to all our surroundings, though the noise and in the solitude. God is omnipresent, everywhere, all the time, at the same time. He is waiting for you and me!

This Scripture in Galatians describes the outward character and behavior of living God's way! These benefits of living for Christ brings unmeasured joy and soul satisfaction. Just today I read Rev. Carolyn Moore's blog post, Not Just Another Book Club (or "How To Read the Bible"). Read this and let it soak into your heart and mind and soul. THIS is the beginning of truly developing a relationship with Christ. On my blog (see the "Resources" page), I list just a few Bible translations, Study Bibles and devotional tools. Online tools like BibleGateway and YouVersion are easy to find and use. A favorite App of mine is Olive Tree; some of the downloads are free and others cost. All these seemingly infinite resources are of little value if they go unused, just as a neglected relationship with God will not grow. Choose God's way! ~dho

*** Mangrove Ministries' Facebook Page: click this link; Please share your thoughts and comments with other readers.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Testing the Voices

"...present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, and that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2 NASB

Discernment involves learning to listen to the Holy Spirit with the ultimate goal being personal spiritual transformation. Coming to have a clearer understanding of God's priorities can expose an unrecognized spiritual talent or reveal a calling to a new ministry opportunity or inspire a new way of living for Christ. This spiritual discipline increases our awareness of God's presence and His workings within the ordinary moments of time, teaches us how to love like Christ, and renews our hope even in times of uncertainty.  To prove what the will of God is comes through dokimazo, the Greek word meaning "by testing you may discern".

Another Greek word, diakriseis, means a "spiritual judgement or understanding" and defines discernment as a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:10). In breaking down this word, dia (through) and kriseis (judgment), we discover the concept of judgment that sees through appearances. This kind of discernment differentiates between the promptings of the Holy Spirit (always good) and deceptive spirits (evil intentions). Remembering spiritual gifts come from God, this gift, like all other spiritual gifts, is to be used for the good of the church and to encourage the body of believers. 

As you contemplate the spiritual discipline of discernment, identify the places in your life that are distractions, places or things that are keeping you from knowing how God is calling you to serve Him. Ask yourself, What am I willing to change? What am I willing to do to be sure I hear God's voice? Will you find a sacred space and spend time listening for God's direction? Will you choose to serve God in the ways He desires you to serve? ~dho

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ones Who Serve

You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  
1 Peter 2:5 NASB

In continuing our discussion on discernment, we have been looking at Henri Nouwen's three components of spiritual living: solitude, community and ministry. Ministry calls each of us to live in God's presence and to share this experience with others. Scripture defines this calling as "a holy priesthood" and every believer is to respond. Like Jesus, we are to be about God's business, to be the ones who serve. Through serving, the soul catches a glimpse of the world through God's eyes.

"God is working in us to reach His highest goals until His purpose and our purpose become one."  Oswald Chambers
In the New Testament, the Greek word diakonia translates as service or ministry. As ones who serve God, the heart-intentions should be pure; the outward-offerings should be done with humility and patience. Christians are to serve each other and those whose needs are known. These sacred acts become spiritual sacrifices with one purpose: to give glory to God. With each act of service we re-confess our faith in Jesus Christ, express our willingness to be His hands and feet, share God's love. In following God's directive to love and serve each other in the name of Jesus, His purpose and our purpose become one. ~dho


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Together ~ One Lord, One Faith

Paul, while in prison writes to the Christians in Ephesus, lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 NLT

The word community identifies a group that shares common interests or beliefs, and in Ephesians the characteristics of unity identify the behaviors of a Christian community. These examples of daily conduct should be visible inside and outside of the community. While differences exist, division should not be the outcome, rather unity with a bond of peace. The definition of 'church' is the body of believers with Christ being the center. Both the individual and collective church should seek God's will and purpose, just as each member of its body. God has designed humanity to be relational, people in relationship with each other, people in relationship with God. The mutual prayers and support of Christian community enhance discernment.

Paul reminds this community (verse 4-5), "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father...". From the moment of Pentecost, the church of Jesus Christ becomes one body of believers, united in one faith, redeemed by one Grace, loved by one God. Chosen by God, we are His children, called to be representatives of His House, of His Truth, His Kingdom. From accountability to encouragement, from listening to praying, the body of Christ should champion each other in the understanding of God's purpose. The process of discernment needs community, as well as solitude. Called to live a life worthy of God's calling, community becomes the Christian's support system, friends, family, together serving one Lord, one faith in Jesus Christ. Embrace community! ~ dho

** in two weeks: Ministry, as we explore Henri Nouwen"s three areas of "Spiritual Living": solitude, community, and ministry .

Thursday, July 09, 2015

In the Silence, Empty and Full

"My soul waits in the silence for God only..." Psalm 62:1 NASB

Henri Nouwen identifies three areas of "Spiritual Living": solitude, community, and ministry. Solitude can be stressful for many people. Because we are overly busy, solitude infrequently finds a place in society. In our busy, we create an illusion of 'full' but in truth, life can be spiritually 'empty'. To be full of the Holy Spirit involves having a deep connectedness with God which fills us up in ways we cannot explain. A relationship with the Holy Spirit is dynamic in nature, and time in solitude with God allows for this to evolve. Listening for the voice of God requires times of silence. The process of discernment implies we are to wait for God, wait with a spiritual surrender and holy desire to know and hear from God. To empty ourselves of the world becomes an offering, a sacred space.

In solitude, God's presence silences the negative thoughts, reduces anxieties, minimizes critical voices. In this sacred space, God reshapes the heart, creates an openness, nourishes the soul. Meditation and contemplation of God's Holy and Living Word expands the soul. Conversations with God form, both listening and speaking. The worldview of busy and hurry loves to deflect God's voice, pretends to satisfy the soul. In the silence, let the soul wait for God, becoming both empty and full, empty of the world and full of God's presence, empty of busy and full of holiness, empty of personal agendas, and full of the Holy Spirit, empty of the 'empty noise' and full of the 'fullness of God'. Experiencing the depths of silence is necessary to find a glimpse into God's immense love. In seeking spiritual discernment, let your soul wait in the silence for God. ~ dho

**next week: Community

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Recognizing God's Voice

Make them holy - consecrated - with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that You gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. John 17:17-18 The Message

Believing God designs a plan and purpose for each person, the question then becomes "how can I know the plan?". God's purposes and how He chooses to accomplish these are intricately interconnected. As faith matures, we develop a growing trust in the Holy Spirit, the One who dwells within the Christian. Discernment evolves as we listen to the Holy Spirit; we discover an increased awareness of God's presence. The Spirit's urging continues to invite us into a deeper communion with God. In listening for the voice of God with anticipation, the Holy Spirit reveals God's intimate and divine love for us. Embracing the profound truth that God chooses us and loves us and redeems us, redefines who we can become, gives us a new identity in the world. Just as Jesus prayed for the Disciples the night before His crucifixion, He prays for us, prays for our holiness, prays for our assigned mission.

So often, our judgmental, critical thoughts about ourselves and others interfere with sensing God's immense love. Conflicts and chaos, hate and hurt, anger and arrogance further minimize our communications with God. All these tools of Satan diminish our relationship with God. Spiritual understanding can be found when we choose to discipline ourselves with trust and love, with faith and hope. Fears begin to fade; we become less self-focused. Empathy replaces anger, and kindness melts differences. In complete surrender to Christ, we can know the deepest riches of Gods love and truth while discovering our true selves. Within the mystery of faith, we find our truest identity in Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells with us. Within this inexplicable intimacy, we recognize God's voice. Know God's love...and listen more! ~ dho

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Experiencing the Holy Spirit in Ordinary Life

Paul's prayer for the people of the Colossian church, asking that they may "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1:9-10 ESV

Discernment is "spiritual understanding" or "perceptive knowledge". Each day we are faced with struggles and stresses calling for greater understanding, for deeper wisdom and bringing new opportunities to share Christ's love, to bear fruit for His Kingdom. Henri Nouwen says this about finding God's voice in everyday, ordinary life:
"We should invite the Holy Spirit into our direct experience, into our thoughts, memories, worries, and plans. Instead of seeking a life free from pain and suffering, we should trust that Jesus is present in our pain and suffering."
During an intensive Survey of the Bible course a few years ago, about 20 of us spent nearly 10 months together for 2 or more hours a week studying. We learned an immense amount of information about God's Word but also experienced a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. A young couple, Andy and Jillian, were part of that group. Within a year of the study, this dental student and news anchor relocated when Andy began a dental residency with the Air Force, taking with them their new baby girl, Violet. Then - ordinary life changed with a new pregnancy and a Down Syndrome diagnosis. (You can read her blog and their story here!) Faced with this unexpected unknown, raw emotions of disappointment and uncertainty poured out. With soul-searching questions, this family embodied the process of discernment through real-life experience, through pain and suffering.

Nouwen goes on to write, "We need to acknowledge our suffering honestly - our loneliness, regrets, sadness, hopelessness, and anger - then open our hearts to the One who loves us in every detail of our lives." By inviting the Holy Spirit into their heartache and doubt, Andy and Jillian placed their emotions and decisions in God's hands and discovered His peace and hope! Anderson was born on New Year's Eve; a new life, a new year, a new beginning!

Paul's prayer continues, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father..." Seeking God's voice requires us to invite the Holy Spirit into all the messy, ordinariness of life and then listen. God's goodness and love never change, and He uses circumstances to make us stronger, grow our faith-walk, teach us dependence on His mercy. God loves us and embraces us as all the details of life unfold. Today marks Anderson's phenomenal recovery from open heart surgery last week to repair two holes in his tiny, 5 month old heart. Bring all your life to the Creator, and prayerfully ask Him how to move forward! ~ dho

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What is Discernment?

"We have been brought together by the goodness of God for reasons beyond our own choosing and for the purposes of God." Henri Nouwen

Discernment is a spiritual process that seeks to comprehend God's voice. Utilizing both community and solitude, discernment reaches beyond the ordinary and below the surfaces, through the noise and into the silences of God's presence.  Nouwen says, "We have to know the darkness to be able to search for the light." This process of hearing and understanding God's direction requires us to experience life both as a part of Christian community and with intentional solitude. As children of God, we acknowledge that God has a vision and a purpose for every person. From daily decisions to an unexpected life crisis, somewhere between prayerful petitions and listening for God's reply, each faith-journey evolves.

Discernment involves the core Christian disciplines of prayer, worship, community, and ministry. In seeking greater wisdom, insight, and understanding we must cultivate patience and a deeper knowledge of God. In 1 Chronicles 28:9-10 David explains to his son King Solomon the importance of knowing and serving God "with a whole heart and with a willing heart." God knows all about us, inside and out, and He desires a relationship with us. David reminds Solomon, "Be careful now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a home for the sanctuary; be strong and do it." (vs. 10) Just as God chose Solomon to build the temple as a place for worship, a sacred dwelling place for God, God chooses each believer in Christ to become a temple for the Holy Spirit, a place of holiness where we meet God. Discernment must become a way of Christian living, a daily spiritual discipline that seeks, listens and knows the Spirit's leading. ~ dho

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Every Purpose, Every Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1
"How will we know when to act, when to wait? How will we know when it is our time to lead rather than our time to follow? Discernment calls us to spiritual understanding but also to action." Henri Nouwen
Earlier this year, I spent some time considering discernment; what does discernment mean and how do I apply it to my faith journey. Some of the very questions Nouwen identified above called me to explore discernment. How do I know when to wait? How do I wait? When is waiting just avoiding action? When does following become the easy answer? What if stepping out in action is not God's purpose for this season of life? How can the soul discern God's purpose anyway? The answers are myriad. Perhaps somewhat of a paradox, the path of discernment can be both clouded by uncertainty and fueled by possibility.
In the weeks to come, let's take a journey together as we explore discernment, evaluate where we are in the process, examine how to find God's purpose. Of all the unknowns, this truth remains: God has a plan, a specific plan for every person. God desires us to know His plan for our lives and gives us not only the insight to find the purpose but also equips for the chosen task. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." God will reveal the best plan for our lives, the best purpose for our energies, while we frequently settle for the better way. Let's seek His purpose in this season, whatever that may individually mean. ~dho