Divine Guidance

Path to the light

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I hear so many Christians either erring on the side of ignoring the reality of Divine guidance in the everyday details of life or erring on the side of placing “Revelation,” as it is sometimes called, above the written Word of God.

The former group of people tend to be those who are so scared of false teachers that they ignore the reality of the Spirit of God and His divine inspiration and guidance within our daily lives.

This group of people tend to imply that God’s Word alone is our source of inspiration and guidance.  They believe that God speaks only through His Word, with few exceptions.

I believe this is mainly in reaction to so many false leaders that have led people astray from supposedly hearing directly from God.

We are wise to “test the Spirits.”  There are many false teachers, and it is especially wise to be prudent when someone claims to hear something from God.  Every word needs to be “checked” against the truth of the Word of God.

Yet, to imply that God speaks only through His Word alone is to imply that we live most of our lives outside of the realm of Divine guidance.

For example, when it came time to moving, job changes, academic choices for our kids, business decisions, relationships, etc…, I asked the Lord for wisdom and relied on His Holy Spirit to lead/direct.

The Bible does not address specific life events.  It does give overall life principles that do help to govern our daily choices, but it does not tell you if you should buy a specific house or relocate to a specific area.  So, if God does not speak in any other way than through His Word, are we living most of our lives outside of Divine guidance?  

I remember when I heard a friend say that she looks for the open door.  If the “door” is “open,” she assumes it’s a go.  If it closes, she assumes that means a “no.”  I believe there is a lot of danger in this.  There are many open doors, but they are not all for us to enter.  That seems more like relying on chance than actual Divine guidance.

What if instead, God does desire to direct our lives in every area of life?

Makes sense, right?!!!  If every decision in our lives does impact our lives, then would it not make sense that God would want to give us wisdom to make the best decision — rather than the most convenient?

There are many ways God speaks, and His Word is replete with verses that talk about His thoughts towards us and His speaking to His people.

God has used music, creation, dreams (on occasion), godly advice from friends, books, and many other ways to speak to my heart.  Sometimes, I get this definite impression from God that is very different from any other type of thought. I have known, in those times, that the impression was from God.  I usually ask Him to confirm with His Word that what I thought I “heard” was from Him.

There are dangers in putting too much emphasis on human “revelation” rather than God’s Word.  Within the groups of people that fall into this category are those who seem to even disregard the written Word of God over their own “divine inspiration/revelation.”  That immediately sends off a “red flag” to me.

God’s Spirit will never contradict His Spirit-inspired written Word.  The Word of God was inspired by the Spirit of God.  God does not contradict Himself. 

A truly Spirit-led person will love the Word of God, the people of God, and God Himself.

I believe there are two groups of people often seen within the present-day Church:

  1. There are those who from fear act like the Word of God replaces the Spirit of God.  These churches are known for their emphasis on truth but spurn many allusions to the Spirit’s leading and seem to have difficulty understanding grace, outside of the theory of it.
  2. There are those who put such emphasis on the “Spirit” that it becomes questionable whose spirit is directing them.  Their “revelations” contradict the Word of God, or there is a lack of love for the Spirit-inspired Word of God.  In other words, they seem to ignore the fact that God’s Word is Spiritual.  Their concept of grace is another man-made theory that is as effective as slapping a smiley face sticker on a person who just lost a loved one and telling them that if they smile it will be all better.

I love the following verse which expresses the balance so beautifully:

John 4:24

24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

It is the Spirit of God that directs the Word of God to penetrate into our hearts with unfailing precision.

We can, indeed, live every moment of our lives within the protection of Divine guidance.

The Invitation To Knowing God’s Will

<i>Walking into the sun  Will you always keep me warm  Give me shelter from the wildest storm  When I'm glowing  Will you tend evergreen love without end</i> ââ??º Weekend Players, Into the Sun ââ?¢Â«

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God’s will… 

Knowing God’s will seems to be that illusive, vague concept that people want to know, wish they could know, or make any excuse to avoid knowing.

But is it really that vague and illusive?  Is God’s will something we can and should know?

I’ve heard a lot of Christians say that they look for an open door and figure that so long as it stays open they can proceed, and it must be God’s will.  This could be a way God is leading, but there are cautions concerning this.

There are a lot of “open doors” that are not intended for us to walk through.

Matthew 7:13-14

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

God does not intend for us to guess our way through life and hope we choose the correct open door. 

God is Sovereign, and He has a purpose and plan for each and everyone of us and for each and every part of our day.

As much as we may want to know God’s will, God wants us to know it even more.  This means that He will be revealing His will to us through various avenues.

There are a few principles to know when seeking God’s will:

  • God’s will is never in opposition to His Word.
  • God’s will requires trust and faith in God.
  • God’s will is always in accordance with His character and purposes.
  • God’s will is accompanied by the peace of His Holy Spirit.
  • God’s will is revealed in the perfection of His timing.
  • God’s will is revealed as we obey Him in each step of His direction.
  • God’s will is often revealed within His activity in the circumstances of our lives.
  • God’s will is revealed as we surrender our own aspirations to Him.
  • God’s will is revealed through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
  • God’s will is often outside of our comfort zone and requires us to tap into divine resources in order to fulfill it.  (See Discerning the Voice Of God by Priscilla Shirer.)

God’s will serves several purposes:

  • God’s will glorifies Himself.
  • God’s will helps us to become more fully the person God created us to be.
  • God’s will serves a “greater good” by affecting a bigger community than ourselves.

God’s will is revealed to us through some of the following means:

  • His Word
  • His character and purposes
  • Godly counsel of fellow believers
  • Circumstances
  • His Holy Spirit’s prompting and leading

In her book, Discerning the Voice Of God, Priscilla Shirer says that God invites us into His will.  She said to wait for the invitation of His movement and then join in His work.

Sometimes, God’s will is exciting and “earth-shattering”.  Other times, His will comes “in a still small voice.”

His will can come with quiet conviction or simple peace.

Sometimes, His will is to persevere in what you are already doing.

Sometimes, it’s just cleaning a potty or preparing a meal for your family.

Other times, it’s sell all that you have, pack up your bags, and head to Africa to set up a medical clinic for the needy, as my dear friends are doing in Zambia (See the http://www.theottsinzambia.com.)

Don’t look for the dramatic experiences; though, God can work and does sometimes choose to work that way. 

Recently, God called me to step out in faith and to do something that was the opposite of what I, in my flesh, would choose.  I had to face some old wounds and some huge “mountains” of fears.  I knew though that God was calling me to do this thing.  I kept resting in the truth that where God guides, He provides.

I know that obeying God’s leading does not guarantee that my life and His will is going to be easy.  In fact, it will probably be the opposite because His will requires His strength and grace to fulfill it.  In other words, His will is something outside what I, in my flesh, can do well and with grace.

Yeah, that does mean I have some fears that resurrect themselves at times.  When those fears stare me in the face, I have to look right back at them with assurance that God’s resources always follow God’s will. 

Philippians 4:13

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

I read this quote somewhere and loved it: “Sometimes answers sound like whispers of redemption instead of shouts of rescue.”

Sometimes, God’s will looks contrary to what we think it should look like.  It is when circumstances appear to be hopeless and God appears to be absent that we need to bank our hearts and minds on this verse:

Isaiah 55:8-9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God has a higher purpose to fulfill than our own personal gratification and goals. 

Ultimately, His will is for our true good.

We have to submit our wills to a God who can only be faithful to His own character.  His character is good and true and just and loving and merciful.  Bank on it!

It’s tough times that will produce a tough faith when we rely on God’s character rather than our own understanding.

She loves me; she loves me not

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What Shepherds Teach Us In Regards To Godly Leadership

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It’s interesting that God compares elders, pastors, and Israel’s kings to “shepherds.”

When God gives an analogy or tells a story, it is always to give insight into truths He wants us to understand.

The relationship between sheep and a shepherd gives incredible insight into what the role should be between those in oversight towards those under them.  (This can apply to elders/pastors in a church towards the laity, parents towards children, employers towards employees, etc…)

Shepherds have several responsibilities when it comes to their sheep:

  • Shepherds are to provide protection from the enemies of the fold.
  • Shepherds are to provide food for the sheep.
  • Shepherds are to provide water for the sheep.
  • Shepherds are to attend to any sick or injured sheep.

Shepherds also have a role when it comes to their relationship with their sheep:

  • Shepherds guide the sheep.
  • Shepherds teach the sheep to trust and follow them.
  • Shepherds teach their sheep to be attentive to their voice.
  • Shepherds work to keep their sheep calm.

Sheep have a wide variety of enemies that the shepherd needs to protect against.  The enemies vary according to geographic location and habitat.  The enemies can be wild animals, cattle thieves, poisonous weeds, uneven ground, and sometimes the sheep themselves — their own propensity to be easily scared and to bolt, thus resulting in injury.

Shepherds have various means of protecting their sheep.  In Biblical times and in nomadic regions, the shepherd’s staff or rod was used to protect the sheep, along with the sling-shot.  The rod was used to ward off wild animals or thieves.  The rod was never used against the sheep themselves. 

There have been some stories circulating about a shepherd braking the legs of a naughty sheep until it learned to obey.  I began to research to see if there was any substantiation to such a claim.  I read a number of articles on this topic and concluded that the claim of a shepherd braking a sheep’s legs is inaccurate.

Instead, we have the Biblical story of a shepherd leaving his 99 sheep to look for his lost sheep, the disobedient sheep who wandered off.  We see the shepherd returning to the fold and rejoicing over his sheep that was found.  Nowhere, do we continue to read that the shepherd then broke the legs of that naughty sheep to teach the sheep not to wander again.

Shepherds were to provide food and fresh water for their sheep.  This meant foraging for new pastures and good stream beds.  Sometimes, this meant keeping them at home in the winter and feeding the sheep themselves.  A good shepherd always looked after the physical and practical needs of his sheep.  If the old streams dried up or the old pastures became barren, it was time to move on to new fertile pastures.  The shepherd was concerned about keeping the food and water sources fresh and abundant for the sheep.

Shepherds also cared for the sick and injured sheep.  They knew the basics of “first aid” care for their sheep.  They knew what brought healing, and healing was always the goal.  The goal of the shepherd was always to restore the sick or injured back into full health.  This meant gentle and appropriate care.

Shepherds played a personal role in the lives of their sheep.  By spending hours near the sheep, the sheep learned to recognize the voice of their shepherd.  This was imperative for protection, provision, security, and guidance. Often shepherds would calm their sheep by playing musical instruments, such as the harp or a flute-like instrument.  Shepherds understood that a gentle and calm manner would protect the sheep against anxiety and help the sheep to follow the shepherd’s guidance more clearly.

The hours the shepherd spent with his sheep taught them to be attentive to his voice and to trust that voice to guide, protect, and provide.  Sheep that recognized their shepherd were much calmer and therefore able to be attentive to guidance.

Shepherds gained the trust of the sheep in order to effectively guide them. 

It’s interesting that God didn’t compare leaders to cowboys.  Cowboys tend to yell and crack a whip against the ground to scare cattle into submission.

Shepherds though never use force against the sheep.  They use a calm manner to guide their sheep.

Guidance implies personally demonstrating how something is to be done or leading towards help.

guidance

[gahyd-ns]
noun

1.

the act or function of guiding; leadership; direction.

2.

advice or counseling, especially that provided for students choosing a course of study or preparing for a vocation.

3.

supervised care or assistance, especially therapeutic help in the treatment of minor emotional disturbances.

4.

something that guides.

5.

the process by which the flight of a missile or rocket may be altered in speed and direction in response to controls situated either wholly in the projectile or partly at a base.
(From dictionary.com)

Guidance implies an ongoing relationship that assists the one being guided towards a positive direction.  It involves an investment of time, energy, and resources.

Guidance doesn’t just lead away from danger but purposely leads towards something positive (e.g., growth, provision, protection).

In the Bible, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd.  Just reading what it means to be a shepherd gives us beautiful insight into how God sees us and how He interacts with us.

The voice of the enemy may try to convince us otherwise, but God’s voice is always that which lovingly steers us in a direction that is always for our good.  I love the following quotes, taken from Discerning the Voice of God, by Priscilla Shirer:

The Lord reminded me that He seeks to deliver me from the guilt of the past and move me toward the promise of the future.  His goal is never to bring guilt and condemnation by continually reminding me of my past sins but rather to bring healing and obedience by turning my attention to my future with Him.

God doesn’t point out our sin to condemn us.  God’s purpose in lovingly revealing our sin is to encourage us to acknowledge it and confess it so He can change us.  The Enemy’s voice brings condemnation.  You will know condemnation because it will bring guilt and offer no clear means of relief.  The Holy Spirit brings conviction that always provides a road map out and away from a specific sin.  His aim is always to lovingly steer us in the direction of His grace.

He doesn’t bring up the past without pointing to the future.

He doesn’t want me to come to Him out of guilt but out of love and affection.  I know He is wooing me when I feel a soothing conviction that tenderly urges me to respond to His love.

In First Corinthians 13, we are told that we can endure immense suffering through persecution, we can be able to preach a doctrinally-correct and eloquent sermon, we can do all kinds of good works for others, but if we don’t have love, it means nothing.  Ouch!

Jesus tells us that love is the key, love is the foundation, love is the “vehicle”  or “instrument” that helps to communicate God’s message accurately to His people.  What is that message?  It’s a message of grace. 

Jesus didn’t come to condemn sinners.  He came to save sinners.

Our sanctification is an ongoing work of redemption in our lives.  It’s not a work of condemnation and fearful subservience to a narcissistic god.  Our God is Love Himself.  What He does is always, always for our good.  Even His voice of conviction is only so that we can be brought into a more abundant life of true freedom.

I leave you with the following descriptions of love:

  • Love pursues.
  • Love heals.
  • Love empowers.
  • Love motivates the recipient towards personal growth
  • Love inspires.
  • Love frees.
  • Love endures.
  • Love thinks the best, regardless of past or present failures.
  • Love believes.
  • Love forgives.