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5 Questions to Ask When You Think You’ve Heard from God

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Discernment. I have a love-hate relationship with that word. On the one hand, some Christians use discernment as an excuse to go on a witch hunt, disqualifying as many leading voices as possible and labeling people “false teachers” at the drop of a hat. Entire ministries are built on this kind of paranoia, and it’s a little sad.

On the other hand, discernment can also be an overlooked and under-valued virtue. In our desire to remain positive, sometimes we accept non-truths and half-truths without thinking through them deeply. When we’re not careful and discerning, we’ll say a hearty “Amen” to any pithy saying that gives us the warm fuzzies.

This is nothing new. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about our imbalance with discernment two millennia ago. In the closing remarks of his first letter to them, he gave them five big pieces of advice about discernment (I’m inserting #’s for emphasis):

(#1) Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. (#2) Do not scoff at prophecies, but (#3) test everything that is said. (#4) Hold onto what is good. (#5) Stay away from evil of every kind.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NLT

Paul’s advice sounds a lot like the tip W. A. Criswell used to give about reading, “Read a book the way you eat fish – swallow the meat and spit out the bones.”

An over-active discernment muscle will cause us to be critical of anything that might disturb our spiritual comfort, including the Holy Spirit himself. But failing to test what we think we’re hearing from God is equally dangerous. Let me zero in on Paul’s phrase “test everything.” I live by five tests. When I think I’m hearing from God, here are five tests I apply that I believe will help you be appropriately discerning too:

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Everybody Needs Encouragement

We live in rather uncivil times. We’re a divided nation in a divided world. In times like these, the world needs a volunteer army of encouragers. It’s one of the best ways to show love. Paul said, So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT)

Encouragement isn’t empty flattery. Being fake helps no one. Speaking words of affirmation isn’t about the needs of the encourager but about the encouraged. Encouragement is about acknowledging the truth about someone, ultimately to remind them of God’s goodness toward them. And encouragement needs to happen at multiple levels. Some need a simple greeting of encouragement while others need the healing of encouraging counsel.

You will never lack a target when you’re looking for someone to encourage in the world in which we live. So take up the challenge today, turn your attention outward, and find someone to encourage.

Three Functions of the Word of God

Every time I stand up to preach, I have the privilege of watching God’s living word accomplish dynamic things in the lives of people. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul spells out three distinct functions that the Word of God performs in our lives…

As you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father does his children.
~ 1 Thessalonians 2:11

Now watch this…

To “exhort” is to BUILD UP people.

To “comfort” is to HOLD UP people.

To “charge” is to FIRE UP people.

I don’t know about you, but I need all three of those in my life every single day I need to be built up because I crumble on my own. So Word of God… exhort me. I need to be held up because I falter on my own, so Word of God… comfort me. I need to be fired up because I flicker out on my own. So Word of God… charge me.

And every time I preach, counsel, advise, or encourage, let me do these three things in the lives of others.


By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?


Life: Past, Present, Future

Here’s my whole life in a nutshell…

For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
~ 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

I turned… in repentance and faith, from sin’s doom to Jesus. It was an awesome day. It was in my past and it solved my past so that my past will never come to hurt me for all of eternity, and neither will my present or future failures once they are in the past either. I turned… it’s in the past.

I serve… the living and true God. That’s my life. I’m bound to Him because of the awesome work of grace He has done in my life. What else is there to live for, really? I’m His, bought with a price, and He is mine, pledged to me and guaranteed by the downpayment of the Holy Spirit in my life.

I wait… for His Son from heaven. Death is momentary and God’s wrath toward me has been extinguished by the very blood of Christ. So now I wait. He’s coming. You may or may not believe it, but you’ll believe it when it happens.

I Am Bound to Give Thanks

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul begins by saying “I am bound to thank God always for you all…” I’ve always loved that little snippet of Scripture because of its plain message – I am bound, obligated, indebted to give thanks. It’s the least I can do in light of all that our wonderful God has done for me. I wanted to take a few moments and list out some of those things for all who will read.

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