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Book Review: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

In the flooded market of Christian book publishing, it is indeed rare for a book to truly break new ground.  Rarer still is a book that breaks new ground in a clear and practical way on a topic that is important to the life of every follower of Christ.

And yet that is exactly what Tim Challies has done in this debut book.  While we have multitudes of books on prayer, love, humility, obedience, and other aspects of our walk with Christ, there have been few that specifically and comprehensively deal with this other crucial aspect of Christian living: discernment.

Challies first calls us to the importance of discernment in our lives, as a mark of spiritual maturity and as a guard of the gospel.  He next takes time to review the significant challenges to living a life of discernment in this culture, dealing specifically with internal, spiritual, and cultural influences.

From there he spends a chapter building a specific definition of spiritual discernment based on its use in the Bible.  He defines discernment as “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”

There is a chapter on discerning and judgement, which compares things which the Bible instructs us not to judge (“motives or the righteousness of other believers”) vs. things the Bible commands us to judge (such as doctrine). From explaining that discernment is primarily concerned with the truth of God, he next moves onto a helpful chapter devoted to an overview of discernment as it applies to the will of God.

Chapter seven of the book looks at discernment as a spiritual gift, while chapter eight is devoted to the dangers of discernment when used improperly.  Lastly,  Challies describes the spiritual disciplines that equip us to develop discernment, and goes through a detailed practical example of discernment in action.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment really is a book for every believer, that lays out a solid foundation and a useful guide to becoming a more discerning Christian.  I was personally challenged in reading this book to apply discernment as a more serious and systematic discipline in my own life. Highly recommended.

For more information about this book you can visit its webpage.

A Sacred Honor

In the novel Brave New World, the protagonist John ”the savage” is attracted to a young woman of “civilized” 26th century London.  He confesses his attraction to her, and she immediately offers herself sexually to him.

Then something happens which she finds inexplicable:  John tells her that he is not worthy to take her as his own.  He explains that in his culture he would need to do some mighty deed to prove that he was a man and worthy to possess her beauty.  She, with a worldview framed by a culture of casual sex without any type of enduring relationships, cannot even understand what he is talking about.  The notion that women should be treated with a sacred honor is unfathomable to her.

Do we have a “Brave New World” today?  In a culture where men can divorce their wives at the drop of a hat, where they can “hook up” on weekends with no expectation of responsibility or commitment, where they can show contempt and disdain for the sacredness of a woman’s body by the millions via the internet?

Where are the men who are so awed by Eve, by the pinnacle of God’s creation, that they would not dare possess her beauty until they were proven worthy?  Who hold her in such honor that they would never profane her body outside marriage?

I remember a men’s Bible study years ago where a newlywed gushed, “I just feel incredibly honored that my wife would give her beautiful body to me.”  How many broken hearts and lives would be saved if men would recover such a sense of honor toward women, a deep, unshakeable soul conviction of profound respect and honor toward all daughters of Eve.

A Journey Home

 

 

This film documentary could be titled “Extreme Extreme Famiily Makeover.”

It shares a basic premise with all of the “reality TV” shows— fairly typical American dysfunctional family gets thrown into lifestyle and situation totally foreign to them.

But then the REALLY extreme happens— God shows up.

Not in a fire or earthquake, but in a still small voice.

In plowing a field together.  In sharing meals and reading stories.

In playing in fields and ponds.  In conversation at a country store.

In living a radically different life, not for money or a new house or to be ogled at by millions of people, but to walk with God.

Six years before this film was made, Tommy Waller left his suburban job and suburban house and suburban income and suburban lifestyle and took his family to a house without electricity in a remote Tennessee Amish community.

The results?  A Journey Home– a journey to a true home, to a place and a lifestyle that became a lot closer to God’s original intent for a home and a family than many of us in Western culture today experience and live.

Is this video telling you to sell your house and give up electricity and have 11 kids?

No, and neither is God.

Am I going to sell my house and buy a horse and plow?

No, God isn’t telling me that either.

But am I willing to listen to God, to the still small voice that is so hard to hear in the midst of this awful din of Western culture, to carve out whatever time and space, whatever lifestyle that would help me best walk with God and glorify Him, no matter how counter cultural or difficult?

I think that’s the question this video is asking, and the question that God is asking me too.

Interested?  This award winning documentary is available for purchase here.

Echoes of a Deeper Reality

Even though you’ve been raised as a human being, you are not one of them.

They could be a great people; they wish to be.

They only lack the light to show the way.

For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son.

So, what’s that a quote from? Some wierd Bible transaltion? Some funky musical on the life of Christ?

If you look, even our debased culture carries echoes of a deeper reality, glimpses of God’s truth, even though partial and distorted. Some may be intentional on the part of the writer being aware of Christianity, some may be unintentional and orchestrated by the providence of God.

If we use a cultural “echo” to think about the deeper, truer reality, that’s ok. The problem comes if we read too much into it, start letting the distorted truth become our truth, and then have a false view of God and reality. The prime example in the past few years was how many Christians went on and on about the film The Matrix, which had some echoes of God’s truth but actually had a lot more toward Eastern philosophy and religion.

In the above quote, there are echoes that the person being talked about was not human, that he was an only son, that he was to be a light to humanity and be instrumental in their becoming a great people. All of that is true of Jesus Christ. Was is NOT true, however, is that humanity “wishes” to be a great people, lacking only light to illuminate their capacity for good—like all sub-Biblical views, these few sentences deny original sin and our fallen nature, a fatal flaw to any world view. A person who sees a Saviour as only light and wisdom can never come to Christ.

So, still don’t know where the quote is from?

The teaser trailer for the film Superman Returns, June 2006.