Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Practice It! (Part 5)

We have talked about what discernment is and how to increase it in the following ways:

1.) Ask God to give you greater discernment. We established that He is more than willing to give it, based on James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all men liberally, without upbraiding, and it shall be given to him.” (Discernment is a component of wisdom.) A prevailing principle of Scripture is that promises laid out in the Word do not just fall into our laps. We must actively ask for them: “We have not, because we ask not ” (James 4:2).

I gave you three more Scriptures which can be used in asking for increased discernment:

Isaiah 50:4, 5
Isaiah 11:2, 3
Ephesians 1:17, 18

2.) Listen to the Lord for His perspective. Listening is an active exercise, in that it involves asking the Lord questions, and then waiting for His answer. We can ask, “What is on Your heart?” “What is Your perspective on this world/national event? Give me Your vantage point.” “What is the root problem in this situation?” “What is motivating this person to react the way he is?” “Should I respond, or should I keep silent?”

We can gradually form the habit of staying in a listening posture before the Lord. It takes effort, but we will get there, as we ask for the Lord’s help in developing this skill.

Part of listening is also training ourselves not to immediately form opinions or jump to conclusions. We must learn to wait for the Lord to reveal His viewpoint. Too many of us are acting, speaking, and praying based on the opinions of our mind, rather than on the leading of the Lord in our spirit.

3.) Immerse yourself in the Word of God. Do this by daily reading it, studying parts of it more closely using various Bible helps, meditating on it (which means to continually think on a verse or passage which is meaningful to you, throughout the day or week), and listening to an audio Bible or reading Scriptures aloud to yourself.

Immersing ourselves in the Word helps us to think like God thinks. Paul said “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The Word is one of the most effective tools we have to experience the reality of that. It provides a way to renew the mind, as mentioned in Romans 12:2, and it cleanses us as well. Jesus told His disciples, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Here are a couple more tools to help you increase in discernment:

4.) Listen for checks and nudges. A check is an inner hesitancy in your spirit, which is really the Holy Spirit telling you, “Don’t do that.” “Don’t say that.” “Don’t go there.” “Wait.” Nudges are the positive side of checks. They are persistent promptings to do, say, or pray something, even when it seems silly to your rational thinking.

The Holy Spirit frequently attempts to guide us by means of checks and nudges, but most of us ignore them and plow on our merry way, getting ourselves into trouble which could have been avoided and missing doors of opportunity which could have been accessed. Why do we ignore them? Because our natural mind rationalizes them away. “What could be wrong with doing that?” “But I want to say it! What can it hurt?” “Why should I use the checkout aisle with the longer line? I’m in a hurry!” “Why would I take that route home? The other way is closer.”

If we will stop dismissing these promptings and start obeying them, we will find that not only will life have less problems, but we will begin to see God using us to bless other people unexpectedly. Developing a sensitivity to checks and nudges is a big part of increasing in discernment.

5.) Pay attention to the little details going on around you. God will use the honing of our physical senses to also sharpen what we pick up on with our spiritual senses. There is a thin veil between the two. Discernment sometimes crosses back and forth between what we see, hear, feel, and otherwise sense naturally, and what we observe through the spiritual senses.

Hebrews 5:14 says, “But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age [maturity], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” As we deliberately form habits such as the five I have listed, and consciously practice using them, our discernment muscles are built up by the exercise of them. We go beyond the limitations of natural thinking and the actions it brings to becoming mature spiritual people, moving with the Lord into supernatural, miraculous living.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Increase by the Word (Part 4)

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Increase by the Word (Part 4)

We’ve talked about the importance of asking the Lord to increase our discernment, and also asking His perspective on particular situations and then listening for His answer. As we develop the habit of inquiring of the Lord for His vantage point on the circumstances which surround us, we grow in discernment.

Even more important, however, is to immerse ourselves in the Bible. Intimate familiarity with the Word is vital, if we are to understand God’s nature and hear Him accurately. It teaches us how God speaks, what His voice sounds like, and how He ticks. It clues us in to His viewpoint on life. If we are not well-versed in the Bible, our discernment will be stunted and skewed.

Multitudes of Christian people in our day are buying into all sorts of false teaching and popular, but unbiblical, opinions. It is almost hard to grasp how duped many believers are. But it is due to not regularly reading the Bible, while indiscriminately absorbing whatever looks and sounds good through the Internet and other forms of media. Truly, even among the Church, we are back in the days when Every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 21:25) and “There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

One of the greatest antidotes to deception, and also one of the best ways to increase discernment, is to immerse ourselves in the Word. Reading it is important. Go beyond reading it to studying the parts which puzzle or intrigue you. E-Sword is an excellent free downloadable Bible program, with many translations, commentaries, and Bible dictionaries within it. You can look up the original Greek and Hebrew words to enhance your understanding. There are also lots of great online resources available. I personally like Bible Gateway. Do you have other favorite Bible tools? Why not share them by commenting on them and leaving a link to them?

Besides reading and studying God’s Word, we also need to meditate in it, which means to ponder it. The goal is to be thinking throughout the day about a particular verse or passage which is meaningful to you in your present circumstances. With a whole book of verses to choose from, where does one begin? What works best for me is to ask the Lord which verse He wants me to meditate on. He then either brings one to mind as I go about my daily business, or else He highlights one to me in my regular course of Bible reading. As I begin to ponder that verse, He shows me how it applies to me in ways which I would not have thought of on my own. Often, He then brings other verses to mind which correlate with the first one and further expand my understanding.

Listening to Scripture is another way to immerse ourselves in it. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), so we really ought to avail ourselves of this method of absorbing God’s truth. Read it aloud to yourself or use one of the audio recordings abundantly available online.

Next time I will share with you a couple more practical ways to increase your discerning skills.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Asking and Listening (Part 3)
Next: Practice It! (Part 5)

Announcing A New Homeschool Parenting Blog

mother and babyMy husband Paul and I homeschooled our children from the time they were born until they grew up — a total of 30 years. Although the girls are now grown, homeschooling is still dear to our hearts.

Recently, I felt that the Lord was giving me a renewed desire to write  for the homeschool community, specifically on character building and parenting topics.

of course I canI assure you that the Out of the Fire blog will continue on as it has in the past. But if you are interested in Christian parenting and character building issues, I invite you to check out my new Character Building for Families blog. (Even if you are not homeschooling your children, you might find some things to interest you!)

Thank you so much for reading my blogs! I’ve made so many friends across the world through Out of the Fire, and hope to make many more through the Character Building for Families blog.

Blessings in the Lord Jesus,
Lee Ann

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Asking and Listening (Part 3)

Last time, I said that two ways to sharpen discernment are by asking the Lord for a greater measure of it and making a habit of listening for Him to speak to us. The Lord encourages us to ask, in James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all men liberally and does not upbraid, and it shall be given to him.” James 4:2 further comments, “You have not, because you ask not.” So, if we want greater discerning ability, we simply need to ask. The Lord is already willing to give it to us, but He wants us to desire it enough to request it.

I have a few favorite Scriptures which I sometimes pray in my quest for increased discernment. One is Isaiah 50:4, 5, which I mentioned last time: “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, so that I will know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. Morning by morning, He awakens my ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious ….”

Another is Isaiah 11:2, 3: “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. And [the Spirit of the LORD] shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.” These verses are about the Messiah Who was to come, but we can also use them to pray for ourselves, because God’s intent, according to 1 John 4:17, is that “as [Jesus] is, so are we in this world.”

Still another is Ephesians 1:17, 18: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened ….”

We can personalize these passages and others in praying for greater discernment.

In addition, I mentioned that we can form a habit of asking the Lord questions and listening for His answers. I often ask the Lord to give me His vantage point on what is really going on in my personal circumstances, national and world events, and in my home region. If we ask these kinds of questions frequently, and keep in listening mode, we will begin to acquire insight above the level of our human understanding.

I also ask the Spirit of Truth to help me identify and tear down strongholds, or mindsets, in my thinking, which oppose His truth – and then I ask Him to establish His thoughts in my mind in place of them. We all carry mindsets which oppose truth, but we are not usually aware of them until the Holy Spirit reveals them to us, either directly or through wise people He places in our lives to help us. Tearing down strongholds in our thinking and building up the Lord’s truth there instead are steps in developing discernment. The removal of strongholds of the mind is a lifelong process.

It is easy to assume that our opinions are in line with how God thinks, but once we ask the Lord to help us identify and tear down strongholds in our minds, we will often be surprised to find that some of our most cherished opinions are not His at all!

We will continue with more practical ways to increase discernment next time.

Keys to Increasing in Discernment Intro
Previous: Asking and Listening (Part 2)
Next: Increase by the Word

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Asking and Listening (Part 2)

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists nine manifestations of the Holy Spirit: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. You have probably heard people misquote “discerning of spirits” as “the gift of discernment.”

Discernment, as we are defining it in this series, is not one of the nine manifestations listed in 1 Corinthians 12. It is not limited to the discerning of spirits, which involves having knowledge of what spirit people are of and whether they are afflicted by natural causes only, or whether an evil spirit is causing sickness or abnormal behaviors and/or thinking. Discernment, in the sense we will be using it, is broader brush in nature. Part of its function is to assist us in moving in any gift or manifestation of the Spirit, including the discerning of spirits.

Psalm 119:66 says, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge ….” Good judgment is another way of describing discernment.

Increasing in discernment leads us into greater exercising of the authority which Christ has given us, so that He will be glorified and people will be blessed. Maturity of discernment helps us to act or speak in the right moment, rather than prematurely or belatedly. It aids us in releasing prophecy accurately, with correct interpretations and applications. When we are able to correctly interpret and apply information, we also better understand how to pray.

Isaiah 50:4 says, “The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, so that I will know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary ….” That is discernment, and conversely, discernment also helps us to know when holding our tongue will bring the greatest benefit. Isaiah 50:4, 5 goes on, “Morning by morning, He awakens my ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious ….”

If you want to sharpen your discernment, two keys are asking the Lord to give you discernment and then making a habit of listening for Him to speak to you. We must learn to stop assuming that we understand circumstances 100% accurately with our five senses alone. What seems obvious is not always the truth – because we only see a limited part of the picture, from one angle. God, however, sees every angle, all at the same time. He is privy to what is hidden in secret, including the motives behind people’s actions. Many times we hastily judge people or events based on incomplete information, and then draw incorrect conclusions.

So, a first step to discerning correctly is to ask God to give us His vantage point. We can make a habit of doing that. I ask God frequently to give me His perspective. I do that in a general kind of way, but also in specific circumstances. “Why is this current event unfolding the way it is?” “How should I pray into it?” “Where does it fit into Your end-time plan?”

If it is about dealings with people, I might ask the Lord, “Why is he responding that way?” “What fear is motivating those words?” “Why am I uncomfortable with what is being said, even though it seems fine on the surface?” “How would You have me respond – or shouldn’t I respond?”

Asking God questions, rather than assuming we know the answers, is part of listening to Him. Doing so hones our discernment skills. We then practice keeping our spiritual ear attuned to hearing His response. It may not come at once if the need is not immediate. I find that the questions I ask often receive answers hours or days later. When the Lord finally speaks, it may be in the inner voice, a Bible verse which comes to mind, or through a dream.

So that’s where we start in gaining greater discernment – asking the Lord for it, and listening for Him. We’ll talk about this further next time.

Previous: Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Intro 
Next: Asking and Listening (cont.) — Part 3

Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Intro

One of the qualities I often ask the Lord to increase in me is discernment. Discernment, in a nutshell, is the ability to know the difference between truth and error, between right and wrong, and how to respond to that knowledge. It pushes past what seems by appearance or circumstance to be the way things are, to what is hidden or less obvious, but is the true reality. It is closely related to wisdom.

Because human beings have been created in the image of God, we are all endowed with a limited ability to discern by our natural senses and logic. We can also go beyond that to “hunches” or “senses,” because we are spiritual beings. For instance, strictly from a natural-man perspective, there are people who are recognized as shrewd or astute. We commonly say of someone operating in natural discernment that he is not easily fooled, or that you “can’t pull the wool over his eyes.” Possessing “common sense” is part of natural discernment.

In this series, I will be concentrating on how to increase in spiritual discernment, which, I feel, is vital if we are to successfully navigate the tumultuous world in which we live. For intercessors, being able to keenly discern is also needful in order to correctly pray and thereby receive answers.

Let me start by saying that among prophetic people, common sense discernment has sometimes been pooh-poohed as something reserved for less spiritual people. That would not be my position. God has given us intelligent brains and logical thinking as gifts which should not be despised.

In my experience, prophetic people who belittle common sense often do nutty things — not nutty because they are being prophetic, but just because they believe using their heads is not the spiritual thing to do. They cause grief to themselves and the Body of Christ as they float hither and thither on what they suppose to be “the winds of the Spirit” … but are not.

If you are a highly administrative, logical, sequential thinker, be assured that you are just as capable of being deeply spiritual as anyone else, no matter who has insinuated otherwise. God has made you that way on purpose. He loves and uses those who are free-flowing, impetuous types to pioneer new trails, but He needs you, too, to help them so they don’t drive the wagon train off a cliff!

What we want to guard against is depending on logic and good sense alone, for they can hinder us from moving in the miraculous, if we’re not careful. While God has given us these tools, they are very  limited, and only yield their best value as we submit them to the Holy Spirit. If exalted to a higher level than they were meant to have, our soulish nature will end up perverting them into a form of unbelief. We need to go beyond them into the discernment which only the Holy Spirit can impart to us. Indeed, there are times when the Lord will lead us to do, say, or pray things which make no sense to our intellect, yet they make perfect sense to Him, and in the end prove to be exactly right.

Many believers have never even considered the possibility of going beyond their natural thought processes into the supernatural understanding which only the Lord can provide. Still others have wished they could, but don’t know how to get there. I hope this series will provide some practical ways for all of us to come into greater levels of spiritual discernment, for this is what the Lord intends for us to have.

Next: Keys to Increasing in Discernment — Asking and Listening (Part 2)

Learning to Wear Your Mantle

Business Suit“God told me I am a prophet.”

OK, you’ve got the call. You have experienced some kind of an unmistakable word or experience from the Lord, where He let you in on a major purpose He has in mind for your life. Now what?

There is a process of getting from the point where God first speaks to you of your calling, to where it is a manifested reality. For some, this process starts with a succinct word, such as, “I call you to be a prophet” (or teacher, pastor, evangelist, etc.). For others, purpose unfolds gradually — a word here, a dream there, counsel or insight from another person which fits with what God already is showing you, until you are receiving understanding of your purpose along a consistent theme.

If God’s plan for you is big — and it is, no matter what He is calling you to — it will take time to forge. Very few things of value are made instantaneously, and what God is making of you is no exception.

When we hear a word from the Lord such as, “I call you to be a prophet,” it may feel like a very “now” word. And if we don’t understand that He generally works out people’s destinies as a process, we can make the mistake of telling the world who we are, and then expecting everyone else to be as impressed as we are with our new-found role. With a prophet calling, we might think everyone else has to hang on our every word and act accordingly — or else. A teaching function, in its immature stage, can lead us into annoying our associates by spewing our opinions right and left and sounding like a know-it-all.

But God makes very few of us (if any) overnight wonders. Overnight wonders are usually over … overnight. If it is going to last, a training process must be gone through, and the biggest part of that process is the refining of our character. The Lord will take us from the place where we view our purpose as being for our advantage and exaltation to where we are entirely focused on serving, loving, and encouraging others, all the while glorifying the Lord in our function.

So, how do you get to the fulfilling of the calling which the Lord has spoken over you? You start by wearing your mantle on the inside. God has spoken, you believe what He said, and you meditate on it inwardly. You spend quite a bit of time praying about it, asking the Lord questions about it, praying for its fulfillment, treasuring in your heart whatever He has said to you.

You get used to the idea, beginning to see yourself in your role, so that you think of yourself quite naturally as being whatever God has said you are to be. You spend time “being” in the spiritual realm before you ever begin to “be” in the natural realm. Figuratively speaking, you get comfortable wearing your ministry “suit” privately before you get decked out in it publicly.

At this point, your mantle is pretty much a secret between you and God. You may tell close family members what God has spoken over you. You may even talk to your pastor about it and receive his input. If you are part of a church which understands such things, your pastor should be willing to help you come into God’s plan for you. He may put you in places of service and training which will help you grow up into your God-given role.

Whether you have a pastor who can help you or not, there are multitudes of people who can, via books, conferences, and the Internet. Are you called to bring supernatural healing? You need to prepare by learning from those who have gone before you — Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake, Kathryn Kuhlman, and Charles and Frances Hunter, to name just a few. You will also want to hang with people who are involved in healing ministry right in your area — perhaps becoming a member of a healing rooms team. It is the same with whatever ministry you are supposed to fulfill — learn through teaching and active participation as much as possible.

As you continue to consciously wear your mantle inwardly and do what you can to mature and prepare, you will see your ministry function begin to take form outwardly. It may not happen quickly. It could take years. But God will get you there, as you believe and are obedient to Him. Eventually your calling will become a solid fact in the natural realm. You will move in it on a regular basis, people will recognize what you have been given to do in the Kingdom, and they will be blessed as you walk it out.

Patience, a humble servant’s heart, and a teachable spirit are the keys to coming into God’s role for you. If you will submit to His refining process, the day will come when you will fully function in the ministry which He has designed for you to carry out.