Divine Guidance – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Divine Guidance – Introduction

Throughout our lives we are faced with choices. Some are yes or no – “should I do X?” Some are choosing between two or more options – “should I do A or B?” These questions aren’t always the choice between right and wrong – we already know the answer to those questions, we just have to have the courage to choose wisely. More often, though, we’re faced with choosing between two rights. In those times, we can feel overwhelmed. We may even say, “there a pluses and minuses to both – I don’t know which way to go.” As a result we may feel as if our future is uncertain. However, we don’t have to go it alone. The choices that are presented to us are much easier made when we trust in God, and when, as a result of that trust, we allow Him to provide Divine Guidance.

Spiritual Quote

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
~Corrie ten Boom

Thoughts

What do you do when you are faced with choices? What if you needed someone to talk to about your deepest secrets or fears? What if you’re trying to figure out whether to buy this car or that car? What if you’re faced with the question, “should I sell my home now, or should I wait?” What if you are faced with the choice of staying in a job or position that is, for the most part, secure, but which leaves you longing for more, or stepping out and taking a chance on a new path which is more in alignment with your desires, but which offers less security? Who do you turn to for advice, who do you trust for guidance?

We’re all faced with choices and, as humans, we have an inherent desire to trust. We grow up trusting our parents, our teachers, our friends and our families. We want to trust our pastors, police, military, and government officials. We want to trust what they have to say, and to trust that they will make decisions that will help rather than harm us. And, when we feel like we have no one to turn to, no one we can “trust,” quite often we’re left trusting in ourselves and feeling like we just have to go it alone. Through the course of our lives we may even have said, “there’s no one I can trust.” We may have forgotten that, no matter what’s going on, there is someone we can trust, and to whom we can turn for guidance.

Scripture assures us that, if we trust in Him, God will guide us:

  • Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and rely not on your own wisdom. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 9:10 “…And they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou hast not forsaken them that seek Thee, O Lord.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 62:7-8 “…God is my strength, my refuge, and my hope. Trust in Him at all times; you people, pour out your hearts before Him.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 25:9 “He will guide the meek in judgement, and He will teach the poor His way.” (Aramaic)
  • Psalms 48:14 “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide until death.” (Aramaic)
  • Isaiah 58:11 “And the Lord shall guide you continually…” (Aramaic)

So, we know that when we trust in Him, He will guide us. But how? Tying back to our discussion last week, He guides us through the power of the Holy Spirit – the Comfortor. In John 16:13 Jesus said, “But when the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but what He hears He will speak; and He will make known to you things which are to come in the future.”  (Aramaic) And we gain access to the Divine Guidance of the Holy Spirit by spending time in prayer and meditation, and turning everything over to Him. When we’re faced with choices, and we don’t know what to do, the best thing we can do is to turn it over to God. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Do not worry over things, but always by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” (Aramaic)

And how do we tap into the Holy Spirit’s Divine Guidance? Honestly, it’d be much easier if God would just send us a little note, telling us what to do. You’ve heard me say, half jokingly, “Lord, send me a memo. I have 7 email addresses, two cell phones with text messaging…just send me a memo…” The truth is, in prayer, He does just that. Through prayer and meditation, God will make the right choice clear. There’s even a process we can use through which the Holy Spirit will “send us the memo.” The process involves what’s known as “Imaginative Prayer.” Developed and taught by St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order of Catholic priests, Imaginative Prayer is used to gain a deeper understanding of Scripture verses. It is also used in what’s become known as The Loyola Discernment Principle or The Loyola Rules for Discernment.

I first learned of the Loyola Discernment Principle over 12 years ago, and have used it ever since.

Admittedly, I haven’t used it as often as I should, and after contemplating, praying over, and writing today’s message, I’ll be using it on a much more regular, if not daily, basis.

You can Google Loyola, Jesuit, and Rules for Discernment and find a ton of information. In researching for today, I found there are as many variations as to how the information is expressed as there are websites; but the basic rules, or principles, remain consistent.

Loyola Discernment Principle

  1. Pray…In the stillness and quietness of prayer and meditation, remember that God is with you. With time and regular practice, you will sense and feel God’s presence. Ask God, through the love and the light of His Holy Spirit, to guide your thoughts, remaining open to His influence and direction.
  2. Identify the Issue…Identify the decision or issue you are facing. Take a look at the underlying values and characteristics of the issue – is it physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional. Look at all sides and list out the pros and cons.
  3. Imagine…In the quiet stillness, imagine in your mind’s eye that you have chosen option A. Let God guide your heart and your mind. Imagine what it “looks like, sounds like, tastes like, smells like, and, most importantly, feels like. What are the advantages and disadvantages? How does this choice make you feel – does it make you happy? Does your decision make you more loving, increase your confidence, enhance your sense of joy, or strengthen relationships? Are you filled with a sense of peace, hope, and excitement? Next, do the same thing with option B. Examine every aspect and let God guide your heart. In your prayerful imagination, also consider questions, as appropriate. Questions such as: How will your family react? What would your closest friend think of your decision? Is your decision in alignment with following the Christian path?

Once you have examined the options and all sides – decide. You may still have some fear or anxiety, and there may be some variables or outside influences beyond your control. Trust that God’s power is at work in your life. In that trust, be assured that, even if things don’t unfold exactly how you imagined them to be, the decision is the right and perfect decision.

Note – sometimes it might be necessary to obtain more information. If so, move to step 4.

  1. Research…Depending on the scope of the decision you are making, you may realize you don’t have enough information to make the best decision. If this is the case, do more research. Ask trusted individuals for input. When you’ve gathered sufficient information, repeat Step 3.

I’ll never forget the first opportunity I had to share this principle. It was an amazing experience; and it truly worked!

My son had made the decision to enlist in the Air Force. He had met with advisors, and with the recruiters. He knew he wanted to serve in the military, he knew the Air Force was the right branch, and he was confident in his choice of career field. He had put together a plan, his path was clear, and he thought he had it all figured out. Then, he met someone, whom he trusted, who offered a different path. Both paths, ultimately, would lead him to the same destination. But, there were significant pluses and minuses to each path. Confused, he came to me for advice. Of course, I couldn’t make the decision for him, but I reminded him that he could turn to God for Divine Guidance. I offered to walk him through the Loyola Discernment Principle and he agreed to give it a try.

During a Reiki session I walked him through the steps. In the quiet stillness he opened his mind and his heart to the flow of the Holy Spirit. When he was ready, I had him identify the issue. When he was clear about the guidance he was seeking, I had him imagine that he had chosen Option A. When he had fully explored that option, what it looked like, sounded like, tasted like, smelled like, and felt like, he withdrew. Then, we repeated the process with Option B. When he was satisfied he had looked at all aspects of the option, he withdrew. Remaining still and quiet, I let him gather his thoughts and come back into himself. I asked him to slowly open his eyes, and, with no further thought, decide. He opened his eyes and immediately said his choice. He was filled with such peace, and he knew, to the very core of his being, that the choice he had made was the right and perfect choice. And, he knew that, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as he had envisioned it, he would never look back and say, “what if I had chosen B?”

Of course, not everything turned out like he had envisioned. But, he had a successful and fulfilling career and, even though it was cut short and he recently retired, he has never once looked back and said, “what if?”

That was my first real experience utilizing Loyola’s Rules for Discernment. Ever since, each and every time I have followed the principle, God, through His Holy Spirit, has led me to the right and perfect decisions.

Closing Thoughts

Our money in the U.S. says, “In God We Trust”…do we really? The Ladies Home Journal (Sept, 1981) asked, “In whom do you trust?” What were the responses? …Walter Cronkite 40%, Pope John Paul 26%, Billy Graham 6%, God 3%!* Now, granted, this is over 30 years ago, but the results are quite telling. We hear people tout “we’re a Christian nation,” or “we’re a God-fearing nation.” Yet, only 3% of the survey respondents trust God! How about us? How would we respond to the question, “In whom do you trust?” Do we trust God with our unknown futures?

We all face choices each and every day; and each choice we make takes us down a path to the next choice. When the right or best choice isn’t immediately clear, we don’t have to go it alone. By our faith we are assured of God’s Divine Guidance. And, if we turn to Him in prayer and meditation, using a method of prayer such as the Loyola Discernment Principle, the right and perfect choice will be revealed to us – God will send us the memo!

I’d like to close with a perfectly timed passage from this month’s edition of The Daily Word titled: God Guides My Way In Every Situation:

“A guide is one who shows the way, who leads and directs. Sherpa mountaineers guide climbers on their mountain trek, quietly leading the way, providing support and direction to ensure that climbers safely reach the top. God is my guide along life’s path. God leads me in right ways, directs my thoughts and actions, and inspires me when I need energy and confidence. I need never feel lost or alone when meeting a challenge, for I have a loving guide with me at all times to lead me through the twists and turns of life. Knowing this, I relax, let go, and enjoy the journey. I trust God, my Guide, to lead me to my good.” And so it is…Amen.

Let us pray…

Scripture

  • Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Psalms 9:10
  • Psalms 62:7-8
  • Psalms 25:9
  • Psalms 48:14
  • Isaiah 58:11
  • John 16:13
  • Philippians 4:6-7

*Acknowledgements

I’d like to acknowledge and thank Pastor Glenn Robinson for his thoughts on today’s topic.

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Feeling Stuck: A Spiritual Fast – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFeeling Stuck: A Spiritual Fast – Introduction

We all go through periods in our lives when we just feel stuck…stuck in our relationships, stuck in our financial situation, stuck in our job. When this happens, maybe what we’ve done, perhaps even unconsciously or subconsciously, is gone on a hunger strike. In essence, we are on a spiritual fast.

Spiritual Quote

“Just as there is food for the body, there is food for the spirit. The consequences of spiritual malnutrition are just as hurtful to our spiritual lives as physical malnutrition is to our physical bodies.”
~Dallin H. Oaks

Thoughts

As I was preparing for today’s message, I was feeling a bit “stuck.” I had all sorts of things in mind to talk about, had done research, jotted down notes, and then – bam – the words just wouldn’t come. I stared at the computer, got a cup of coffee, went back to my notes, stared at the computer some more, and still nothing. I started to feel discouraged and anxious. Then Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:6)…”Be anxious for nothing…”

I put down the coffee, walked away from the computer, and did what most pastors do when they’re “stuck” – I went for a short walk. While I walked, I said a simple prayer, “Lord, I’m stuck…please guide me.”

As I walked around my backyard, I noticed the plants and shrubs. Some of you know that we’ve been re-working the irrigation system at the house. For weeks Mike has been digging, trenching, laying out new lines, adding sprinklers, etc. All this work only to discover we have no choice but to put in a 4th valve and zone because there simply isn’t enough pressure to water everything. Unfortunately, this discovery has come at the expense of half the backyard – nothing has gotten watered for several days. Many of the poor plants and shrubs are struggling and wilting, and leaves are turning brown from the lack of water. They seem to be begging, “Feed me, water me.”

That’s when the thought occurred to me that many times when we feel “stuck” it’s because we’re not getting the nourishment we need.

We all know how important food is to our bodies. Without food and water, our bodies break down, our cells can’t regenerate, and our health declines. Sure, we can go for a short time without food or water, but before long, the lack of nourishment takes its toll. Sometimes we fast on purpose – but even then it’s only for a short time. Our physical bodies simply cannot be sustained without physical nourishment.

The same is true for our spiritual body. Without proper spiritual nutrition, our spiritual body breaks down, we aren’t regenerated, and our spiritual health declines. Our spiritual bodies simply cannot be sustained without spiritual nourishment.

In our day-to-day lives we can easily get caught up in the “things of this world.” Think of all we do on a regular basis: work, vacuum, dust, clean the bathrooms, do the laundry, do the ironing, mow the lawns, do the shopping, tend to the kids, and tend to our loved ones. We have doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and counseling appointments. Then we have those unexpected things come up like completely re-doing an irrigation system. And, occasionally we fit in something fun like a concert, a movie, or a vacation. Our lives are so full, where do we find time for the things of the Spirit? Is it any wonder we end up on a Spiritual Fast? All too often we are “feasting” on the “things of this world,” and completely ignoring the nourishment of our spiritual bodies. No wonder we get “stuck.”

What Does Scripture Say?

Scripture reminds us that we must nourish our spiritual selves.

  • Mat 4:4  – “But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’””
  • 1 Corinthians 10:3 & 4 – They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
  • 1 Peter 2:2 – “…crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

Just as food and water are vital to the health and wellness of our bodies, our spiritual food is vital to our spiritual health and well-being. And, if we’re being honest, we put a lot of thought and effort into our next meal. We plan out menus, we make shopping lists, we spend hours going to various stores, and we spend hours each week preparing meals. But, how much time do we take to plan and prepare for our spiritual nourishment?

For many of us, if we can squeeze in one hour per week for church, we consider ourselves “fed.” We simply don’t put the same time and energy into nourishing our spiritual selves – we don’t make it a priority.

When planning a wedding, I ask the level of importance they place on attending church and their spiritual growth. Most say they feel their spiritual growth, attending church, etc. is very important. When asking those same couples if they attend church regulary, most say no. And, when asked why they don’t, invariably the answer is “we just don’t seem to have the time.” It seems to me that we may think or feel that our spiritual nourishment and growth is important, but we simply don’t give it the time it deserves and requires.

When we’re hungry, we eat. When we’re thirsty, we drink. Our bodies are programmed to tell us when we need nourishment, and we respond. Generally speaking, we eat and we drink every day. Most of us eat one, two, three, even four or fives times a day. And most of us drink something – water, coffee, tea, soda, etc. – throughout the day. But when it comes to our spiritual bodies, many of us go on a six day fast, only eating once a week at church – if we’re lucky! Again, it’s no wonder we get “stuck.”

Breaking the Spiritual Fast

Want to get unstuck? Feed your spiritual body. There’s a reason the first meal of the day is called breakfast. After a long night with no food – basically, a fast – the first meal of the day breaks the fast. We need to get ourselves in the habit of having a spiritual breakfast every day, too. We need to take time reading scripture. We need to take time in prayer and meditation. We need to spend time communing with God, letting Jesus and the Holy Spirit guide us. When we do, the Lord will guide us to right actions and right decisions, we’ll feel inspired and motivated, and we’ll get “unstuck.” Will we make a mistake, or take a detour down a wrong path, once in a while? Sure, but He’ll stay with us, and He’ll guide us.

Psalm 37:23-24 tells us, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they may stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Psalm 32:8 says, “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you’.” And Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

These are strong assurances. But, how can He guide us when we don’t spend time with Him? When we’re on a spiritual fast, we’re not studying scripture, we’re not spending time in prayer and meditation, and our spiritual health declines. The only way to regain our strength and our spiritual well-being is to end our spiritual fast.

Conclusion

In conclusion, let me ask a few questions.

How much time do you spend each week…

Planning meals?
Grocery shopping?
Preparing meals?
Eating?
Doing dishes?

Now…how much time do you spend each week…

In prayer and meditation?
Reading scripture?
Attending church?
Participating in other spiritual activities?

Is there a disconnect? Is there an imbalance? If so, I invite you to give more thought to your spiritual growth and nourishment. When we’re hungry, we eat, and we feel better. When we’re thirsty, we drink, and we feel better. That’s how we maintain our physical health. The same is true for our spiritual bodies. To maintain our spiritual health, we must make it a priority. And so it is…I invite you to break the Spiritual Fast.

Scripture

  • Matthew 4:4
  • 1 Corinthians 10:3 & 4
  • 1 Peter 2:2
  • Psalm 37:23-24
  • Psalm 32:8
  • Proverbs 3:5-6

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