A Poor Reflection In the Mirror

Tomorrow I’m off to drive around the state of California for the next few days, with a BridgeBuilders presentation tomorrow afternoon in the Bay area, and a retreat over the weekend in Oakhurst, CA. Then I have some business meetings with various people as I meander back to Southern California early next week. I’m excited, except for all that driving. I’ve got to save up my favorite podcasts to help pass the time. And on an unrelated note, we have begun to post a Russian translation of He Loves Me, for those interested. You can find out more about all our translated materials on our new International Page. But that’s not what I really wanted to write about.

I love the exuberance of youth. It isn’t easy to create exuberance and passion, and young people have it in abundance, but with it often comes misplaced confidence, and that can spell a ton of trouble. And no, I’m not talking about age here as much as I’m talking about experience on this journey.

Often I overhear someone say, “I have the Holy Spirit to guide me, so I don’t need the Bible or anyone else.” I clench a bit when I hear it. Ahh… Youth! Love the passion, but you’ve got to know they’ll end up strewn across the rocks some day having chased down something they thought the Spirit was speaking to them, only to find out it was their own passion or too much pizza. The more people pretend to be certain about some God-told-me information, the more I suspect that they are still a bit green on this journey. Yes, God will scoop them up, help teach them that humility is a wonderful key to living his life, but I would save them from that crash if I could.

Even Paul, the Apostle said, that he only knew what he knew in part, a “poor reflection as in a mirror.” (I Corinthians 13) And remember their mirrors were not the perfectly flat, highly polished surfaces we have today. They were more metallic, like looking at your reflection on a sheet of metal. He’s specifically talking about prophecy and how well any of us actually discern what God wants. I relate to that. I very rarely think that I’ve heard anything God says with absolute certainty. I have inklings on my heart, growing convictions that seem to nudge me in a certain direction. Some of them even turn out to be the Spirit’s leading, while others prove in time they weren’t. So I’m with Paul on this. When it comes to following the leading of the Spirit a bit of caution and humility go a long way to helping us get it right.

In a fresh reading through the book of Acts in the last few weeks, I have been blessed at how the early believers found their sense of direction. Often a turn of events brings them back to Jesus to seek his mind. One of those times is in Acts 15 where the young believers are fighting over whether or not Gentile believers must observe Jewish rituals or not. The focus was on circumcision as some argued that it was an important sign of the covenant that all male believers had to undergo. Paul, of course, disagreed. So some of those more mature on the journey got together to hash it out. You can read the details, but what I love about these moments in Acts was that they looked for three things to line up to have some certainty about what God might be saying.

They looked for how God had seemed to lead and spoken in their circumstances. The looked to the Scriptures, both the Old Testament, as well as the things Jesus said and modeled that eventually became our New Testament. They would zero in on those insights that seemed most applicable to their situation. And, they talked it through with each other until they came to some measure of agreement. Only then, when all three lined up, did they have the confidence to reach a decision together.

I find myself living the same way. Yes, I look for the nudges and insights of the Spirit to guide me in decisions I make. But I’m never certain of those leadings alone. I also search the Scriptures and think about what Jesus and the early church modeled to see if that lines up as well. (I don’t go looking for proof texts to justify my point of view, because that will only lead me back to myself.) And I find myself talking about it with people God has put into my life as we kick around what might be him and what might be Wayne. (Of course it is important on this last consideration to be talking with those who are truly learning to walk in humility with God, not just people who want to scratch your back by saying what you want to hear. Also make sure they are people on the journey of being shaped by Jesus, not just Pharisee types who merely follow rules and rituals and want to find some principle to guide you.)

I have the most confidence to move ahead when all three of those line up. One alone isn’t sufficient, though I’ll let my best understanding of Scripture veto any decision I’m going to make. Instruments on an airplane measure a number of variables, and when they all line up, you know you’re on course or the glideslope for landing. And, yes, I realize many have not yet learned how to search the Scriptures outside the false religious interpretations that long held them captive, but that is no reason to discount their value. It may be incentive enough to learn how they become an important piece of the puzzle of making God’s life more certain in you.

But don’t fly with only one input when you don’t have to. God has not only given us his Spirit, but also his recorded revelation and other brothers and sisters who can help us see more clearly what God might be doing in us. I’m thankful for all three.

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14 Comments
  1. Nils November 8, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Appreciate the insight, bro. As someone who probably fits into both “youth” categories, I agree with you. I have been there, done that on the “definitive” hearing from God thing. Our Father is gracious enough to let us learn from these times, which will ultimately draw us closer to him, as he teaches us to sense his voice. All the while, he can work through these seemingly “bad” experiences by providing us opportunities to share our experiences with others in the family. What I think the difficult thing for us is that our human nature tends to prefer things to be “black & white.” So we transfer this approach to hearing from God, and of course, religion only furthers this (ie proof texts to support my ideas). As Father leads me on this journey, I’m learning to be less focused on the “definitive” and more open to the inklings that he grows in my heart. Scripture and other Jesus-centred brothers and sisters help us here also. No, we’re not going to get it right everytime, but is that even really the purpose anyway?? I think that it all falls back to our relationship with Father. The more we grow in him, the more familiar his voice will be. At least that’s the way I see it!

  2. Nils November 8, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Appreciate the insight, bro. As someone who probably fits into both “youth” categories, I agree with you. I have been there, done that on the “definitive” hearing from God thing. Our Father is gracious enough to let us learn from these times, which will ultimately draw us closer to him, as he teaches us to sense his voice. All the while, he can work through these seemingly “bad” experiences by providing us opportunities to share our experiences with others in the family. What I think the difficult thing for us is that our human nature tends to prefer things to be “black & white.” So we transfer this approach to hearing from God, and of course, religion only furthers this (ie proof texts to support my ideas). As Father leads me on this journey, I’m learning to be less focused on the “definitive” and more open to the inklings that he grows in my heart. Scripture and other Jesus-centred brothers and sisters help us here also. No, we’re not going to get it right everytime, but is that even really the purpose anyway?? I think that it all falls back to our relationship with Father. The more we grow in him, the more familiar his voice will be. At least that’s the way I see it!

  3. rob horton November 9, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    excellent post wayne!!!

  4. rob horton November 9, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    excellent post wayne!!!

  5. Peter November 10, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Thank-you for writing this, Wayne. It sounds right. We get impressions but need to test them by the three things you mentioned. What confuses me, though, is how does an “intimate relationship with God” fit into all this. I don’t see that here in the article. Either I’m missing something or I don’t understand relationships. I feel like I’ve been promised June Cleaver but all I see here is the absent working mom. If God is not the big, invisible bird in the sky why do we need to test Him? Is it that this relationship is really with the bible and other people? I thought it was so much more than that.

  6. Peter November 10, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Thank-you for writing this, Wayne. It sounds right. We get impressions but need to test them by the three things you mentioned. What confuses me, though, is how does an “intimate relationship with God” fit into all this. I don’t see that here in the article. Either I’m missing something or I don’t understand relationships. I feel like I’ve been promised June Cleaver but all I see here is the absent working mom. If God is not the big, invisible bird in the sky why do we need to test Him? Is it that this relationship is really with the bible and other people? I thought it was so much more than that.

  7. Bones November 12, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    Three days ago, I sat across the table from a friend, a brother in Christ, who recently had walked out on his wife and two kids, and has been living with another woman. He told me of the fights he’d had with his wife, her criticism, nagging, etc., and how affirming and encouraging the other woman is to him.

    As we talked and drank tea together, I sensed within myself the Spirit prompting me to tell him, “Go home to your family.” I didn’t have or take the time to check it with scriptures or others in the Body right there on the spot, but it resonated with what I know of both, and it was so clear and out of character for me to make such a bold statement. The prompting was so overwhelming, and I blurted out, “I just heard in my heart the Spirit telling me to tell you to go home to your wife.” We didn’t talk about that statement further, but just continued as he wrestled within himself of his internal battle with what he himself was acknowledging to be his sin. I affirmed that Father has not rejected him, and he accepted that and replied that he has not rejected God either despite all of this.

    Just now, as I’m sitting here pondering Wayne’s blog and the comments folks have made, I received a call from him. He asked about what I’d shared that the Spirit had told me. I repeated it. He said, I’m thinking that if God told you that, He’s telling me the same thing.” I urged him to ask God himself what he’s to do, and then prayed with him over the phone asking Father to do just that. I could hear his voice cracking over the phone as he struggled internally, thanking me for my friendship and for praying for him.

    I’m startled by all this! I’ve been on a journey to learn to listen more intentionally to the Spirit living in me, but He seems to be working more and more through speaking to me when I haven’t specifically asked. I’m home today because I’ve set aside the time to process through some things with Him, to reflect and journal, and I find such personal retreats to be a necessary part of my initiating the conversation with Father. But my growing confidence that I’ve heard from Him at his initiative is a by-product of such times, as I have been growing more familiar with what is His voice in contrast to my own in my head and heart.

  8. Bones November 13, 2007 at 12:25 am

    Three days ago, I sat across the table from a friend, a brother in Christ, who recently had walked out on his wife and two kids, and has been living with another woman. He told me of the fights he’d had with his wife, her criticism, nagging, etc., and how affirming and encouraging the other woman is to him.

    As we talked and drank tea together, I sensed within myself the Spirit prompting me to tell him, “Go home to your family.” I didn’t have or take the time to check it with scriptures or others in the Body right there on the spot, but it resonated with what I know of both, and it was so clear and out of character for me to make such a bold statement. The prompting was so overwhelming, and I blurted out, “I just heard in my heart the Spirit telling me to tell you to go home to your wife.” We didn’t talk about that statement further, but just continued as he wrestled within himself of his internal battle with what he himself was acknowledging to be his sin. I affirmed that Father has not rejected him, and he accepted that and replied that he has not rejected God either despite all of this.

    Just now, as I’m sitting here pondering Wayne’s blog and the comments folks have made, I received a call from him. He asked about what I’d shared that the Spirit had told me. I repeated it. He said, I’m thinking that if God told you that, He’s telling me the same thing.” I urged him to ask God himself what he’s to do, and then prayed with him over the phone asking Father to do just that. I could hear his voice cracking over the phone as he struggled internally, thanking me for my friendship and for praying for him.

    I’m startled by all this! I’ve been on a journey to learn to listen more intentionally to the Spirit living in me, but He seems to be working more and more through speaking to me when I haven’t specifically asked. I’m home today because I’ve set aside the time to process through some things with Him, to reflect and journal, and I find such personal retreats to be a necessary part of my initiating the conversation with Father. But my growing confidence that I’ve heard from Him at his initiative is a by-product of such times, as I have been growing more familiar with what is His voice in contrast to my own in my head and heart.

  9. Peter November 14, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Thank-you for your response, Bones! I found it encouraging. Wow, God is moving beautifully in your life. And to think He initiates all this without you specifically asking. That truely is startling, but so like Him. Thank-you again.

  10. Peter November 14, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Thank-you for your response, Bones! I found it encouraging. Wow, God is moving beautifully in your life. And to think He initiates all this without you specifically asking. That truely is startling, but so like Him. Thank-you again.

  11. Bones November 15, 2007 at 8:30 am

    Peter, I wanted to thank you as well for the encouragement!

    I was thinking some more about your earlier comment. It seems to me that we aren’t so much testing God as testing our own ability to hear or our experience at understanding what He is saying to us. The intimacy grows with my growing confidence that He is indeed personally communicating with me, rather than just expecting me to glean what I can from scriptures and the advice of others. It grows as I experience Him giving me specific love gifts that are far more than just circumstantial!

    A friend shared with me today an example of just such a love gift from Father which he experienced a couple of weeks ago. He was on a personal retreat for a few days, and had been processing with Father on some deep woundings and generational sins in his family. Bouts with fear had plagued him each day as he would set off on a hike. In seeking the Lord as to the source of this, he was taken to a specific painful incident from his youth. To keep the story short, after this revelation, he experienced a vision of an eagle soaring, and sensed the Spirit telling him he had been released from his fear, and from the consequence of that incident. So he set out again for a hike plugged into his iPod, and the song that began to play as he walked was “The Power of Your Love”. Just as the song reached the lines, “And as I wait, I’ll rise up like an eagle, and I will soar with you…”, he glanced up and there far overhead, almost indiscernible against the sky, was either a hawk or an eagle, soaring on the wind…

    He proceeded on up the same trail his fears had held him back from the day before with no sign or sense of fear coming over him whatsoever.

    For him, it was a gift from Father, reminding him of just how beloved he is as a son, reminding him of the promise of his release from the fear and bondage of that incident from his family’s past. That type of thing is what is drawing my friend, and myself as well, into an ever-deepening intimacy with Father.

  12. Bones November 15, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Peter, I wanted to thank you as well for the encouragement!

    I was thinking some more about your earlier comment. It seems to me that we aren’t so much testing God as testing our own ability to hear or our experience at understanding what He is saying to us. The intimacy grows with my growing confidence that He is indeed personally communicating with me, rather than just expecting me to glean what I can from scriptures and the advice of others. It grows as I experience Him giving me specific love gifts that are far more than just circumstantial!

    A friend shared with me today an example of just such a love gift from Father which he experienced a couple of weeks ago. He was on a personal retreat for a few days, and had been processing with Father on some deep woundings and generational sins in his family. Bouts with fear had plagued him each day as he would set off on a hike. In seeking the Lord as to the source of this, he was taken to a specific painful incident from his youth. To keep the story short, after this revelation, he experienced a vision of an eagle soaring, and sensed the Spirit telling him he had been released from his fear, and from the consequence of that incident. So he set out again for a hike plugged into his iPod, and the song that began to play as he walked was “The Power of Your Love”. Just as the song reached the lines, “And as I wait, I’ll rise up like an eagle, and I will soar with you…”, he glanced up and there far overhead, almost indiscernible against the sky, was either a hawk or an eagle, soaring on the wind…

    He proceeded on up the same trail his fears had held him back from the day before with no sign or sense of fear coming over him whatsoever.

    For him, it was a gift from Father, reminding him of just how beloved he is as a son, reminding him of the promise of his release from the fear and bondage of that incident from his family’s past. That type of thing is what is drawing my friend, and myself as well, into an ever-deepening intimacy with Father.

  13. Robin Yeldell December 5, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Right on!! I was raised to put all my stock in scripture alone, but I believe that scripture itself is teaching us the validity, the God-ordained understanding of the three-pronged confirmation of God’s will. Scripture, Spirit-leading, and community affirmation.

  14. Robin Yeldell December 5, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Right on!! I was raised to put all my stock in scripture alone, but I believe that scripture itself is teaching us the validity, the God-ordained understanding of the three-pronged confirmation of God’s will. Scripture, Spirit-leading, and community affirmation.

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