Discernment by Henri Nouwen with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird–Book Review

This book is the third and final volume of Nouwen’s posthumous spiritual trilogy. I have already reviewed the first two, Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen with Michael J. Christensen & Rebecca J. Laird–Book Review and Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen–Book Review. It is concerned with reading the signs of God in everyday life through books, nature, people and events.

To Nouwen, discernment is both a spiritual gift, and a practice. He says:

Discernment is a spiritual understanding and an experiential knowledge of how God is active in daily life. Discernment is faithful living and listening to God’s love and direction so that we can fulfill our individual calling and shared mission.”

Nouwen does not give pat answers, but guides the reader through the process of discerning vocation, presence, identity and time. Throughout he uses both biblical texts and examples from his own life as illustrations. At the end of each chapter there are questions that could be used for journaling or group discussion.

Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life

At the end there are several appendices with essays by Nouwen that delve even deeper into the topics of discernment and spiritual friendship.

Nouwen is a Catholic, and I did have a few theological issues with this work. However, for the most part, I found it both engaging and helpful.

VERDICT: 4 STARS

For more about Henri Nouwen see:

Henri Nouwen on the Blessing of Poverty

Henri Nouwen on Traveling

Discernment = Clarity

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I am big on discovering and using our spiritual gifts.  I am the spiritual gifts coordinator of our congregation.  There is one gift that stands out when it comes to seeking clarity — the gift of discernment.  Here is the definition:

DISCERNMENT: The gift of discernment is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the

Body of Christ to know with assurance whether certain behavior purported to be of God is in reality divine, human or Satanic. Contributes: Clarity

Literal Meaning: To separate or make a distinction, differentiate

If you think you may be gifted in this way, take a look at these distinctive characteristics.  Are you someone who can:

  • Distinguish truth from error, right from wrong, pure motives from impure
  • Identify deception in others with accuracy and appropriateness
  • Determine whether a word attributed to God is authentic
  • Recognize inconsistencies in a teaching, prophetic message, or interpretation
  • Are able to sense the presence of evil

A person with this gift is usually perceptive, insightful, sensitive, intuitive, decisive, challenging and truthful.  People with this gift my sometimes struggle with how to express their feelings and insights.  They need to be careful to avoid being harsh and should always confirm their perceptions before speaking.  The truth should always be spoken in love, not judgement.

For further information refer to:

 Acts 16:16-18; I Corinthians 12:10; I John 4:1-6

You may also use your concordance to do a word search for other verses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Holy Pursuit by Dianne Jago–Book Review

I’m known in my congregation as “the woman with a thousand ideas” so a book about dreaming really attracted my attention.  If you distill the content of A Holy Pursuit down to its’ foundation, you will be left with this question:  “What is the biblical approach to dreaming and how do we know if our dream is in God’s will?

Although Dianne Jago contends it’s fine to have dreams, we must hold them loosely and examine them carefully.  Her stated purpose is:

“…. to remind you of who you are in Christ first and then to encourage you to use the truth and hope of the gospel when pursuing a dream.”

We all have gifts and talents given by God, but we must keep in mind the reason gifts are given:  to build up the body of Christ.  Our dreams are not worthy if they are fueled by selfish ambition or if they are not used to glorify God and encourage His people.  There are also times in every life when we must put others first:  our spouse, our children, our congregation.  Our dream should not render us unable to fulfill our primary responsibilities. In fact, in the final analysis, the pursuit of God is our dream!  Knowing and serving Him is the greatest thing we will ever accomplish.

Here are some of the questions the author suggests we ask ourselves about any dream:

  • What does my personal walk with God look like right now? (this should have priority)
  • Does this dream line up with biblical standards for Christian living?
  • What are my motives for pursuing this dream?
  • What season of life am I in right now?
  • Have I sought counsel in this?
  • What logistics are required to make this dream happen?

In the course of reading this book, you will learn about Dianne’s own dreams– which ones worked out and which ones didn’t.  She is careful to say that every person’s circumstances are different and there are no pat answers to determine what dream is appropriate for any individual.

VERDICT:  FOUR STARS.  As an encourager, I found it to be more of a cautionary tale than a motivator.  However, the advice given is both biblical and practical.  It is a good source of information for all Christian dreamers.

Fir you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/a-holy-pursuit-P005816356

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255.

 

 

What Stands Out–Jude

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”  Jude 2:20-21

I love it when Michele does one of her study blogs, because it encourages me to go to the same scripture and see what stands out for me.  It’s always great to have a friend to sharpen us in our Christian study.

So, I read Jude over several times (it’s a short book) and the verse above stands out for me.  As Michele said, Jude is cautioning us against false teachers.  This verse gives us what I like to call -YBH –Yes, but how.  It tells us how to avoid falling prey to lies about the faith.

First of all, we must pray in the Holy Spirit.  The Lutheran catechism says the Spirt “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies” us.  That means we can pray for the Spirit to open our minds to the truth, to give us  the wisdom and discernment to rightly divide truth from error.

Then we are told to “keep yourself in God’s love.”  In other words, stay close to God and God’s people.  Avoid what pulls you away from the Scripture and what you have been taught by godly pastors and leaders.  Attend worship and Bible study.  Learn and grow in the proper environment.

As I said, Jude is a short book, but it has a powerful and important message.  Will you read it this week?  What questions does it raise in your mind?  What stands out for you?