Friday, December 21, 2012

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Review

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

After finishing the book last week, I decided that this week I would review my posts and pick out five things about which this book has challenged me.  I hope you guys will share your thoughts as well.  In no particular order:

1. The nature of discernment: it can be developed
- I used to see discernment as a prepackaged gift that a person either had or didn't have.  I realize now it is something that can be cultivated and developed.  It is more like a set of Legos than a Matchbox car.

2. The results of discernment: actions
- True discernment is not simply coming to the correct thinking- it is following that thinking with actions.  We need discernment to think/do right ourselves, to stand up for truth, and to serve others by sharing truth with them.

3. The basis of discernment: God's Word
- Discernment is a possibility because absolute truth is a fact.  Absolute truth is found in the Bible, making God's Word indispensable in our pursuit of discernment.  The more we know of God's Word, the easier and more quickly we will see error.  Though we want discernment, our focus should not be on that end, but on God and His Word.

4. The responsibility of discernment: personal
- Truth is constant, error is constantly changing.  Satan, a deceiver, uses error as possibly his greatest tool.  While error may be subtle, it is always deadly.  We are personally responsible for what we believe.  Because of that, I must take ownership of what I believe and make sure it follows Scripture.

5. The practice of discernment: outlined
- His outline for discernment in the last chapter was a good step by step way to examine things.  I still have some questions about how we can "test" certain things without "trying" them.  I will want to think about that question some more and come to a conclusion.

I have been helped by this book, and I have been encouraged by your participation and comments.  I am taking a break over the holidays, but plan to propose another reading project after the first of the year.  I'll email you with details.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 10

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hughes News #41

"Tie your shoes and pray for the Hughes"

Dear Friends,                                                                                                  
In our last update, I mentioned a meeting with the president of the Baptist group that has helped us get our living permits.  The meeting was quite helpful as I learned more about the group.  Brother Ion also confirmed some of the information another missionary and I had learned about needy areas in Moldova.  It seems the Lord is narrowing it down for our future place of service.
We are happy to announce that our applications for two year residency permits were approved.  It is a blessing having that behind us!
We each had a chance to minister in our church recently.  Due to the lack of time between when she was asked and when she needed to speak, Viola spoke in English with a translator.  She challenged the ladies about the theme of the meeting: “Rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.”  I had the opportunity to preach in Russian Sunday night.  I am still tied to my notes to the point I am basically reading my sermon, but I know these beginning steps are necessary.  (I also learned to not choose a passage in the Old Testament with lots of names- they are difficult in English and even more difficult in Russian!)
Soon Christmas will be here.  We plan to take a few days off from language lessons to rest and recharge.  We will be making some long-range plans and would appreciate your prayers as we seek the Lord’s guidance.

In His service,
Jacob and Viola Hughes

For Prayer:
1. Russian and Romanian study
2. Another family with whom to team up
3. Planning for the upcoming year

For Praise:
1. Recent opportunities for us to minister
2. Living permits for the next two years
3. An upcoming break from language study over the holidays

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Chapter 10

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 10: The Practice of Discernment
- I think he gave a lot of good thoughts in this final chapter, but I'll have to admit, his layout really confused me for awhile.  I finally realized (the second time through) that he was explaining a step and then relating it to the test case of self-forgiveness.  Still, it seemed like some things were out of order or that he repeated himself.  The way things were laid out just put a slight damper on the last chapter for me.  Anyone else think think the same thing?

- I read through the end of the book and looked at the study questions.  When reading through the questions for this chapter, it confused me because he asked, "What are the five steps of testing a doctrine?"  I looked back through the chapter and tried to identify which five he was specifically talking about.  I think I may have found them, but I'm still not sure.

- I'll list the actions he explained:
1. Verify: write down the statement you need to verify
2. Clarify: write down your understanding of the issue and the opposing thoughts you have come across
3. Assess the issues: ask what is at stake in the discussion
- In the testing stage he said this (going back to the currency illustration): "He can return to the standard and compare one to the other [bills].  In the same way, we can compare any teaching to the standard of Scripture and see how they compare." (Page 167)  
4. Pray
5. Asses your instinct: write down your first instinct and why you think that way
6. Asses your conscience: write down what your conscience is saying
- "Scripture is the perfect and holy standard, and it is here that we will be able to gauge whether our instinct and conscience are right."  (Page 169)
7. Search the Scriptures: make a list of relevant passages
- Loved the quote from Martin Luther: "First I shake the whole tree, that the ripest may fall.  Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf."  (Page 170-171)  May we be ever so diligent!
8. Observe the Scriptures: singularly, carefully, thoroughly, systematically, intimately; write a few words for each passage
9. Compare and Contrast: compare unclear passages to clear ones
10. Research: see what others have said about the passages
11. Summarize: write a sentence or two what each one means
12. Expand your research: look for information from other resources
13. Conclude: write down what I have concluded
14. Make a list: write down how the idea lines up from Scripture
15. Judge: write down at what point the doctrine leaves Scripture
- I thought his comment on abstaining from the appearance of evil of those things that are actually evil was said in an interesting way.  I would need to take more time to figure out why, but I thought I'd throw it out here and see if it struck you as well.
16. Hold fast: write down what you will abstain from
17. Apply: write down what you will do and what you will hold fast to
- I was convicted by the discussion of seeing truth, shrugging our shoulders, and walking away.  I am afraid I do that too often.  May the Lord help me to incorporate his truth in my life- not just my mind!

- "Some Christians immerse themselves in the philosophy, entertainment, and culture of society.  They feel such a strategy will strengthen their witness to unbelievers. . . . But the emphasis of that strategy is all wrong.  Our focus should be on knowing the truth." (Page 179, quoting MacArthur)

- Now that I've worked back through this, I really appreciate this model he has given us.  Certainly, we can tailor it to our own use, but I think he has a lot of good insight for examining a doctrine.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 9
Discussion on Conclusion

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment- Chapter 9

A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 9: Developing Discernment
- [This was the shortest chapter, and I'm three days late in writing about it!]

- I liked that he pointed out that discernment is tied to other Christian disciplines.  In other words, one cannot develop discernment by itself- it comes as we practice other disciplines.

- He gave the commitments that will allow us to have and display discernment.  They are pretty straightforward, so I'll just list them without comment.
1. Pursue Discernment
2. Desire Discernment
3. Pray for Discernment
4. Seek Discernment

- He used Asaph's Psalm 73 as an example of the role of discernment in the church.  This isn't the worst illustration I have read, but I wish he would have differentiated between the temple and the church (and then possibly extended the application).

- He shared Mark Dever's five reasons for Christians to join a church.  I wasn't wowed, but they were good thoughts.  Since they were fairly simple, I'll again just list them (with one comment):
1. For assurance
2. To evangelize the world
3. To expose false gospels
*I  liked this thought: "The more we see of genuine Christianity, the more the counterfeits will be exposed."  (Page 157)
4. To edify the church
5. To glorify God

- Although the author of the following quote is one I don't often cite, I did think his statement was accurate and thought-provoking: he said Christians "are drunk with the false opinion of our own insight and are thus extremely reluctant to admit that it is utterly blind and stupid in divine matters." (Page 159)

- The author stated that we need help from others in order to grow in discernment.  Is assistance of others absolutely necessary?  I would not say it is, because to me that would minimize the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  That being said, I would also not advocate for someone ignoring the potential assistance of those around him.

- I thought it was he made a good point that the confirmation of one's discernment is not found in what they say, but in what they do.  Obedience to God's Word is confirmation of discernment.

- "We become discerning Christians not by focusing on discernment as an end in itself, but by focusing on the person of God and the character of God."  (Page 161) This is good!  And how do we focus on God's person and character?  The Bible!  Again, we this theme is reemphasized to us.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 8
Discussion on Chapter 10