an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Category: Guidance

On Knowing God’s Will

I was asked a question by a young friend in the congregation recently:

In what ways can we know God’s will? For example I feel sometimes I want to know all of God’s will for my life up front so that I don’t have to guess, but it seems in reality that God only shows me bits and pieces of his will over time because he wants me to trust him. Is this correct? I’m asking because [a friend] and I talked on the phone a bit and he mentioned how God’s will is mysterious.

I think my friend was onto a very important truth in the words of his question! I’ll get to that after establishing a bit more context for knowing God’s will.

There may be mysterious things about God’s will; but there is a whole lot of God’s will that is clearly taught from scripture. Check out the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 through 7, for example. Our problem is often that we have our own agendas and want God to tell us what is next to advance our agenda rather than being satisfied with his agenda in the everyday matters of life. Of course God does have a purpose in life for each of us. That’s where we tend to focus – too much, generally speaking. What unique for me? And then we don’t work on aligning our lives with what we can easily know of His will for every follower of Jesus from scripture – and that’s where we fall short.

I found a couple of pieces of advice lately from a couple of good Christian teachers that I included in a very brief comment in another post.

I wrote an article on community discernment to help on big decisions from a Quaker perspective, too. This article also discusses more generally the “prerequisites” for knowing God’s will.

But the big picture…. I’d say that God’s will for knowing God’s will is that we trust Him. Trust is a more of a relationship thing than a plan.

What we often want is a map of the future or a plan of action or a direction. Then we can take control of it ourselves! We tend to stop waiting on God, stop seeking Him, stop spending time with Him, stop listening – and instead start doing. The “doing” tends to take on more and more of what we think is good and less and less of God’s walking us through living so as to carry His image day by day. Sometimes God starts us in a direction that he intends to change after having his planned impact on us. It’s a mechanism for changing us more than a direction he intends to maintain through to the end that we were thinking of. I think of being directed to grad school. I thought it was to prepare me to be a Christian professor at a major university. Well, that didn’t happen. And it wasn’t a failure. It wasn’t misleading. It was the path that brought me to the not-imaginable-to-me place where I am today. So in that sense, “mysterious” fits.

I don’t think having a map of the future or a full and promised plan of action is generally God’s will for us. God’s will is that we enter into a relationship of trusting Him, growing to know Him more and more over time, and being changed in that relationship to be more like Him (that’s a way of describing what it means to carry His image well).

Relationships are not plans. They are alive. They are community. In our relationship with God, He grants us considerable power over our portion of the relationship. We can abuse it, ignore it, have expectations about it, leave it behind…. or value it, let Him have the position of Lord in it, and so on.

All of our actions regarding the relationship have consequences, but they do not change God’s heart for us or drive Him away. In a sense, we make our bed and then lie in it. Our actions do not force his hand. He is faithful and just and loves us no matter what. But our actions bring the necessary consequences to change us or teach us or humble us or…. whatever is needed in God’s wisdom. We think things are good decisions, and they bring a kind of death, or darkness! Oops. Better learn from that and trust God again!

Can we bring ourselves to trust Him? Even into and through death? Though whatever comes from other humans? Will we trust Him and find Him faithful to himself and His love – even His love for the broken people that we are, in need of change?

Then there’s also some stuff I’ve been checking out lately that packages discipleship as a “Rule for Life” thing. “Rule” is not like a legal thing; it is the older meaning of rule that is more like a framework or support structure or a trellis that holds up a plant, but in this case giving us a form for life to grow around.

Rich Villodas has been talking about “Rule for Life” stuff recently. He attracted my attention with a comment that said:

“Here are 4 core questions to help you build a Rule of Life. These questions are created with prayer, self-care, community, and mission in mind.

  1. What are the spiritual disciplines you need to anchor you in a life with God?
  2. What are the practices of self-care you need to care for your body and nurture your soul?
  3. What core relationships do you need in this season of life to support you on your journey?
  4. What are the gifts, passions, and burdens within that God wants you to express for the blessing of others?”

His comment reminded me of my first little article above quoting Ray Bakke and the bishop who commented on what path makes one the most generous. And also, without satisfactory answers to the questions Rich Villodas poses, I think it is difficult to accurately discern a specific, unique direction of God’s will for us. That is, we need to back up to get the basics of life with God right before He moves us in a more unique direction. It’s like the “talents” parable. If we have not been faithful with the part of God’s will that he has already revealed to us, why would we expect Him to tell us more?

Advice on Discerning God’s Will

When unsure and seeking God’s calling on your life, Ray Bakke advises:

Follow Jesus, start loving your neighbors, and somewhere in there your calling will come.

Rick Villodas reports a helpful question from Bishop Robert Barron to consider when trying to discern God’s will:

Which path makes me most generous?

Of course, being in a trusting community with other followers of Jesus who can be with us in discernment is so important!

“Is accepting a Covid-19 vaccination taking the Mark of the Beast?”

Short answer: No.

How can I be so sure? Because biblically speaking, the “Mark of the Beast” as noted in the Apocalypse of John (aka Revelation) is a way of declaring a higher allegiance to a power other than Jesus/God. It is not as if someone could slip “the mark of the beast” into your drink while you were not looking and then you become damned to hell by drinking that drink unaware. It is not a trick, though it is deceitful. It is taking what seems an easy way (perhaps under duress), or a powerful way (under temptation) that sets another authority above Jesus.

Let’s go with the drink example. Let’s say someone offers a toast to the emperor above all other kings and authorities, and you drink to that. Or what about offering a pledge of allegiance to a flag without “under God”? One could argue that this is much closer to taking the “mark of the beast” and certainly not an action a Christian should take. The mark need not be a tattooed “666” on your forehead, either. It is declaring loyalty to a power above your loyalty to Jesus.

So, if you had to sign an oath declaring your loyalty to a government or leader above all other powers including Jesus in order to take a dose of vaccine, then by all means, refuse the vaccine on those terms. To my knowledge, no one is requiring anything like this. Health officials and leaders in our society just want you and our community to live and be as healthy as possible.

You may wonder why I am even addressing this issue. It seems so obvious to most; am I serious? Well, this is apparently not obvious to everyone. I know this question has been asked earnestly by those who believe it to be so. So, just in case….

N.T. Wright amplifies James on “being true to oneself”

“None of us starts off with a pure internal ‘kit’ of impulses, hopes and fears. If you are true to ‘yourself’, you will end up a complete mess. The challenge is to take the ‘self’ you find within, and to choose wisely which impulses and desires to follow, and which ones to resist…”

“Some desires, says James, start a family tree of their own (verse 15). Desire is like a woman who conceives a child, and the child is sin: the act which flows directly from that part of the ‘self’ which pulls us away from the genuine life which God has for us. And when the child, sin, grows up and becomes mature, it too has a child. That child is death: the final result of following those desires which diminish that genuine human life.”

N.T. Wright
Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John. and Judah
comments on James 1:9-18

Personal Spiritual Retreat

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
-John 7:37-38, NIV


My comments below are often based on what I heard on audio from a lecture by Annette Fergusson given at Regent College as a part of the Christian Thought and Culture I class. The lecture, entitled The Contemporary Christian and Spirituality, was a guide for students who were encouraged to make a one-day retreat. I am indebted to her for her simple clarity and helpful concrete suggestions. The practice she recommends has helped to fill me again and again with peace and life from the never-lacking source that is Jesus our Lord.

Introduction – What is is?

The practice of Christian retreat has a long history in the Church. It is a decision to make space in one’s life, setting aside everyday activities to seek the Lord in prayer. We follow the example of Jesus, who set aside times of retreat from the press of his ministry and other human beings. Consider Mark 1:32-39, Psalm 62:5-8, Luke 5:16, and Luke 6:12-13. Each of us comes to a retreat with differing needs. Your experience will not precisely mirror mine, or be the same each time.

“Spiritual disciplines aren’t just enforced time with God, they’re rewiring the circuitry of our brains, forming and shaping disciples.”
– Rob Moll, We Are Family, Books & Culture, Nov/Dec 2011

I recommend from 3 to 4 hours up to one day done in such a way as to avoid the need for overnight preparation. Keep it simple and easy. Don’t worry about food; fast for the duration of the retreat. (Perhaps take some water along.) I have nothing against more extended times of retreat. However, such times will require more calendar arranging and preparation. The practice I am recommending is intended to be simple and repeatable monthly or more often. Time with God is vital (John 15:1-8) if we are to bear much fruit.

Why a Retreat?

In our busy society, we face pressures at many levels. Setting aside a time for individual communion with God is a necessity. It is how we are designed to live. As we take time for intentional prayer and meditation alone, we come to see ourselves in the light of the Holy Spirit. With an attitude of openness to what the Spirit may do in us, we allow God to change us. He forgives, redeems, and encourages. He transforms us as we are drawn into a deeper relationship with him.

Getting Started

We come to God bringing everything we are and everything we are experiencing. We meet him heart, soul, mind, and body using all of our senses.

  1. Find a place where to be alone. I prefer natural settings outdoors. You will discover what works best for you. Experiment as necessary with location. Below is a list of some local places that I like. Others may choose a quiet room or indoor setting free from distraction and association with everyday life: a room in a church building or a friend’s home might do well. I find it helpful to walk a few miles (an hour or so) before settling down for the actual retreat. I process thoughts and clear my mind. There is something settling about walking quietly.
  2. Choose to be alone for your retreat. Solitude is a learned spiritual practice.
  3. Turn off your phone and other means of being contacted.
  4. Keep a notepad or journal available. Write down distractions, things you forgot that need doing, observations, thoughts you want to remember, whatever seems helpful. It can be helpful to write out prayer or reflections. Others use a notepad as a place to store things that will steal your attention from the retreat when they come to mind, attempting to draw you back to your everyday activity.
  5. You may find it helpful to use something to focus your attention on your purpose to spend time with God. I usually keep a Bible in sight. Others use a cross. Find a way to keep yourself focused.
  6. Fill your time during the retreat with thanksgiving. Begin with prayer. Ask for grace anticipating in a prayer of trust what God is going to do with your time together. Ask for his blessing and protection on this time. Express your desire to know him and his ways and purposes more deeply and clearly. Make yourself available to him. Think Romans 12:1-2.
  7. Start with a time of quiet worship. The form of your worship will vary from person to person and time to time. The idea of worship is to speak out verbally or mentally your praise to God, to dwell on his glory and express your recognition of who He is. Honor his name. The following scripture passages are good sources of worship thoughts and words: Psalms 9, 18, 19, 23, 24, 29, 30-34, 65, 66, 89, 92, 100, 103-105, 107, 111, 113, 117, 118, 134-136, 145-150, 2 Samuel 22

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina (divine reading) is a way of reading scripture that promotes communion with God and internalizing the teaching of scripture. There are other forms of Bible study for other occasions; this form is good for retreat.

  • Reading: Choose a passage from Scripture that you will meditate on. I find it helpful to choose in advance of the retreat, but allow God to guide you. (Below are some possible passages if you would find this helpful.) Keep in mind that it is content rather than volume that matters. Read slowly, allowing the words of the text to speak to you. Pay attention to the Spirit as you read. When a word or phrase captures your attention, stop and reread it. Write it down if that helps.
  • Meditation: Enter into the Scripture you have read so that you become a participant rather than an observer. Allow the scripture to speak into your own life.
  • Prayer: Consider your feelings and thoughts as you have read and meditated and express them in prayer to God. Be honest with him and tell him what you are thinking, even if you are in doubt or do not understand or have feelings that you find uncomfortable. (He knows, anyway.) There is benefit in just opening up your heart to God to share thoughts, feelings, and even fears. (Like the Psalmists…) When you have emptied yourself of these things, it may be time to move on to contemplation.
  • Contemplation: Sit quietly and enjoy the presence of the Lord. Do not rush this time. Practice his presence; He is with you, so focus your awareness on Him. Seek intimacy with God. Listen. Enjoy your surroundings without losing focus on God and the passage and your thoughts. What God has made declares his glory.

After the time in scripture, it may suit God’s purposes for this time to study or read something else, or prepare a lesson, or write. I sometimes find this time profitable for planning future teaching, preaching, writing, or for other activities requiring thoughtful preparation. But these fruits are the bonuses of retreat, not a “goal” for the retreat. Accept what God offers, whether it is quiet enjoyment, insights, ideas, conviction, or whatever.

Prayer of Thanksgiving.

Close with a prayer in which you thank God for whatever he has brought to this time. The reality of God’s presence empowers us to re-enter everyday life to overflow with the life He gives us. This extended time of retreat can prepare the way for shorter times of daily devotion that incorporate pieces of what we experience in retreat. We are anchored by the time we spend with Him.

A Prayer Partner or Coach

I suggest that you work with a prayer partner or coach before and after your personal spiritual retreat. It will help you to stay focused and accountable. Your prayer partner or coach can encourage you and help you process the things God reveals when you are with him. Share what God is doing in your life, and where he is leading. Pray together for the retreat and an aftermath of overflowing life.

Scripture for Lectio Divina

Here are some possible scriptures to get started in the Lectio Divina portion of retreat. Some of these passages may be too long for one study time. Choose a short enough section of scripture that you can get your mind around it at one time. It may be helpful to do some contextual study and word study to prepare in advance for Lectio Divina. The richer your knowledge of the content of the scripture, the more God can speak to you through it.

  • Genesis 1, 2, 3, 15
  • Isaiah 6, 11 and others
  • Sections of Ezekiel
  • Psalm 139
  • 2 Corinthians 2:14 to 6:2. Chapter 3 is a favorite of mine.
  • Ephesians 2, 3, 4:1 to 5:20
  • Galatians 3:1 to 4:7
  • Galatians 5 and 6
  • Hebrews 10 and 12
  • Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer)
  • parables often make a good study
  • Revelation 21 and 22

Places for Personal Spiritual Retreat

I try to pick easily accessible outdoor locations that do not require a long drive. So I will focus on that sort of place in and near Long Beach. Here are a few possibilities. Experiment and find spots that work for you. Suggestions are welcome.

  • South Coast Botanic Gardens is probably my favorite. There is an admission charge of $7 or $30/year. There are some remote sites in the gardens where you will rarely be disturbed.
  • El Dorado Nature Center is a good location, but all trails can be busy with walkers. I see others doing retreat-like things here. There is a charge for driving into the parking area, but no admission fee.
  • Hopkins Wilderness Park often has some places where you can be alone.
  • Hilltop Park in Signal Hill is a good place to pray over the city. It is somewhat busy for retreat purposes.
  • Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos have nice garden areas.
  • There are several city parks where you can find a shady, secluded picnic table at which to sit. Here are a few that have worked: Stearns Park, El Dorado Park, Heartwell Park
  • Deane Dana Friendship Park in San Pedro has become one of my favorite places for the walking portion of retreat. There is only one large set of picnic tables at the edge of the park at which to sit after walking. Shade is practically non-existent; so this is a park I use in the winter only. It is possible to walk from the southwest corner of the park all the way down to the ocean through Shoreline Park and then to the trails along the Trump National Golf Club and Dog Beach in Palos Verdes, which is another good winter retreat spot. There is also parking for this public area at the golf club.

You can download a copy of this post as a document here.

You can also download the slides from a sermon on spiritual retreat I gave on June 10, 2012. A PDF of the sermon slides is at here. The sermon audio is available here as an MP3 and the Powerpoint slides here.

A Discernment Process

Discernment – The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment.
The Free Online Dictionary

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
– Paul of Tarsus, 1 Corinthians 2:12 [niv]

Test everything. Hold on to the good.
– Paul of Tarsus, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 [niv]

Judgment is an ambiguous word, in Greek as in English: it may mean sitting in judgment on people (or even condemning them), or it may mean exercising a proper discrimination. In the former sense judgment is depreciated; in the latter sense it is recommended.
– F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus


What do you do when you have an important decision to make and you want to move forward with confidence that you are in God’s will? How do you test if your “bright idea” or vision is from God? How do Christians bear one another’s burdens, speaking the truth in love? For background reading, consider 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, Ephesians 4:11-24, and Hebrews 10:24-25.

As Quakers, we believe that Christ is the head of his church and arrange our practice around this present-day reality. We believe he has come to teach his people himself. However, rather than conceiving of this as strictly a matter between Jesus and each individual Christian, Quakers have for centuries valued the discernment of the community of believers gathered in Christ’s presence. After all, if Christ is the head of the church, is the church not his physical presence with us?

Friends have made use of a structure traditionally known as a clearness committee. This essay is not intended to be an overview of Quaker traditions, but it may be helpful to point out that this discernment process owes much to this tradition. Of course there are other precedents, not least of which might be the council at Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. There are other means by which God offers his guidance. This is one that has proven useful to many of his people in our experience.

Preparing… For those seeking discernment

Discuss your thinking ahead of time with others. Don’t feel as if you need to keep your thinking to yourself. Communicating and discussing ahead of time is good so long as it respects that fact that you are gathering a group to offer you their discernment in the end. So communicate and explain and think out loud. Establish a context with the people who will be helping with your discernment. But if you’ve already decided, then don’t gather a group that is unaware of where you are in the process. Keep an open mind.

Here are some questions that you might consider in preparing to share your idea or question with others who gather with you for corporate discernment.

  1. Where are you in the process of defining your project or goal?
  2. What prayer is being focused on your project or goal? Your own? Others?
  3. What key scripture is guiding your thinking?
  4. How are those closest to you in the Lord involved and responding?
  5. What counsel from trusted, mature Christians have you sought and heard?
  6. Is there more information that should be gathered?
  7. How would you describe the orientation of your project or goal along to
    the following “dimensions”:

    • connect – grow – serve
    • personal or corporate
    • discipleship or leadership
    • church or community
  8. Practically speaking, are you ready for the discernment process? Who should be invited to participate in this discernment process? What is the schedule you have in mind for making a decision? Have you allowed the time needed to extend invitations and explain to others and allow them to pray?
  9. Do others experienced in this process think you are ready?

Remember that you are presenting an idea, a vision, or a question. You do not need to have a detailed plan of action worked out. Those asking questions and giving feedback can ask about practical issues, but should not expect that a detailed plan is already in hand.

There is much about the Christian life that is assumed in this process. Some of the sections of this essay – those at the end – are intended to help in shedding some light on the context that is necessary for a process such as this to work.

Preparing… For those serving in a meeting for discernment

Your role is simple, really. Listen. Learn what you can in advance from the person who wants discernment, but don’t fret too much if you still have questions. Begin ahead of the meeting to pray for God’s blessing on this person. Ask for clarity in His will, ways, and purpose for them. Offer yourself to God to be used in this process in any way that He chooses.

There is one caution. Hold your role in this process with “an open hand”. Your opinion is not what is important. It is your role in gathering with other believers to seek Jesus’ guidance that is important. It is your support for his direction in the life of the one who is seeking discernment that is important.

During the meeting, as the time for prayer approaches, allow the words read from scripture to focus your mind. They have been chosen by the one seeking discernment as somehow representing this occasion. Let other concerns drop from consciousness and clear your mind to be filled by the Spirit of God. As the prayer time begins, offer yourself to God to serve him and your brother or sister who is seeking discernment. Then listen quietly, trusting that He is present to guide. Speak up during the prayer time only if God moves you to speak.

During the feedback time of the meeting after prayer, humbly report what you have received from him. Present it just as he gave it to you – no amplification, no commentary, no extra thoughts or opinions. Just report. Sometimes you might see a picture. Or certain words in scripture may come to seem important. Contribute what God gives you. That’s all you need to do.

After the meeting, keep listening, praying, communicating, and encouraging in the Lord. The group might meet again, but usually once is enough.

The Meeting

Here is an outline of a discernment process meeting. Plan for one cycle of this process to take about one hour. There’s nothing critical about the one-hour time period or how it is broken up below. This is a suggested pattern for when a schedule of one hour is appropriate. For important decisions where time permits, longer in prayer is better. More clarification time could also be useful, but not at the expense of the time in prayer. Appoint a host who can humbly lead the group through the meeting.

  1. The host briefly explains the process, if necessary. (1-2 minutes)
  2. The person asking for discernment presents a vision or idea with a key scripture. (10 minutes)
  3. The group asks clarifying questions. (5-10 minutes)
  4. Someone from the group (a different voice) reads the scripture passage again.
  5. Pray for discernment, asking for God to give discernment and clarity. Generally this is silent, waiting prayer time, but one or more may speak as led. Often no one will speak. (15-20 minutes)
  6. The group gives feedback and discusses impressions. (10-15 minutes)
  7. Close in prayer, the group praying aloud to bless the person seeking discernment. If culturally appropriate, gathering around the person seeking discernment with your hands on them can be powerful.(5 minutes)

There is usually much to talk about after such a meeting. Some, usually those closest to the one seeking discernment with recognized spiritual authority will take more of the lead in following up. The one who is seeking discernment should, of course, remain in contact and communicate their thankfulness to the community that has supported them.

Questions to ask yourself when seeking discernment

Consider the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. The life you have is what God has already given you. How have you invested it? Why would God invest more in you if you have not done well with what he has already given? So, when asking for direction or discernment for the future, one must consider the present. Make good with what you’ve already been given before expecting more. Here are some questions based on a set I once wrote for myself as a sort of ongoing spiritual self-evaluation. I’ve incorporated suggestions to improve them. You may find them helpful. Of course, they are intended for one who is trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior already.

  1. Do you have credibility with the poor?
  2. Do you study and understand scripture?
  3. Do you pray?
  4. Do you see God working around you?
  5. Are you dealing with conflict and unfair criticism or accusations well?
  6. How do you react to gossip? Do you gossip?
  7. Are you bearing spiritual fruit?
  8. Are your relationships good (as it depends on you)? Do they honor God?
  9. How do friends and co-workers regard you?
  10. Do you speak the truth in love?
  11. Do you have mature Christians who know you well supporting you in your decisions?
  12. Are you tithing?
  13. Are you serving God where you are in all you do?
  14. Do you confess your sin appropriately?
  15. Do you pursue excellence in what you do?
  16. Do you control your emotions or do they control you?
  17. Are you consistently winning the battle against temptation?
  18. To what extent are fear, ambition, greed, lust, vanity, guilt, shame – and the like – affecting my present decisions?

It is rare to be unable to find areas in which I fall short. (Actually, it has never happened.) However, there is a difference between falling short and harboring sin. Harboring sin is when I know that something is wrong; but I choose to go ahead with it anyway, giving it place in my life. The sin grows stronger as I allow it to remain intact and do not war against it. This is a sure way to spiritual death. Consider the warning of Paul in Galatians 6:7-10! There is no way to be sure of God’s will for the future when one is harboring sin in the present.

Personal Steps to Knowing God

Every Christian is called to live a life following Jesus’ teaching. (Think Sermon on the Mount. None of us have that down yet!) Every Christian is called to use whatever gifts and talents they have to serve God, serve the body of believers, and serve the poor. (Romans 12:1-2, 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Corinthians 12:7, Matthew 25:31-46) These two areas of God’s will for us are clear. There’s no need to ask, though there may be more we need to learn. It is easy to fall into the pride of asking for God’s special will for me and my life when what I really need to do is practice obedience in what I already know!

In that same vein, here’s another list I made for a sermon some years ago.

  1. Offer your life to God. Be available. Anything – anywhere – anytime; nothing is held back! Romans 12:1-2
  2. Do what you know to be God’s will where you are now: job, school, family, friends, church.
  3. Renew your mind with the scriptures. Learn God’s ways and purpose.
  4. Practice spiritual disciplines.
  5. Prefer a low place. Prefer the poor. Serve.
  6. Purify your heart. Get rid of sin.
  7. Seek God’s will with other Christians. Worship. Fast. Pray. Ask.
  8. Put yourself where you can hear God. Give time to listening, and stretch yourself in circumstances.
  9. Be strong and courageous.
  10. Be patient. Don’t hurry. Wait for clarity. Go when you know. Moses spent 40 years as a kid, 40 years in the desert, and then led Israel for 40 years. Jesus spent 30 years living a private life and a bit over 3 years in public ministry. Most of life (some would say all) is preparation.

For Further Reading

The two resources that I am recommending are not specifically about this process. They are, rather, about the larger context of hearing and experiencing God. You will be able to see where a process such as this one fits into the larger picture as you consider them.

I highly recommend the book Hearing God by Dallas Willard. This is the best overall consideration of this topic that I know of.

In addition, a practical approach to this question can be found in Experiencing God, a 13-week workbook put together by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King. I’ve worked through this workbook more than once. Friends from diverse walks of life such as college presidents and professors to high-school drop-outs have found it very helpful. I don’t know of any other extra-biblical resource with that kind of track record! (FYI, it’s cheaper at Lifeway Stores than at Amazon.)

More Scripture

On the importance of love for proper discernment, consider Philippians 1:9-10.

Love leads to obedience leads to knowing God… John 14:15-31.

Remaining in Christ and loving one another… John 15:1-17.

The Spirit makes things known… John 16:12-16.

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a way of reading scripture that allows contemplation, listening to the Holy Spirit, and even communion with God in order to more deeply appreciate and integrate scripture into one’s thinking and being. One may receive peace, guidance, joy, or insight from this practice. We have found it quite beneficial in small group settings, particularly when seeking faithfulness as a group to scriptures to which God has guided us.

In our experience, we may spend some time brainstorming scriptures on a certain topic or area of interest to the group. We read together and consider which passages seem most significant, or from which God seems to be speaking to us. Then, we arrange to spend time in Lectio Divina around those scriptures. God has spoken to us in powerful ways as we approach scripture in this way.

Here is how we have been practicing Lectio Divina

  1. Cultivate internal quietness through silence. Prepare to hear the “still small voice” of God (see 1 Kings 19:12). Sit with eyes closed and let your body relax. Allow yourself to become consciously aware of God’s presence with you. Start by expressing your willingness to hear from God in these moments by using a centering prayer such as “Come Lord Jesus,” “Here I am,” or “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
  2. Read the passage aloud twice, listening for a word or phrase that is God’s word for this day.
    a. In silence, repeat and consider the word or phrase in your mind.
    b. Share the word or phrase with the group.
  3. Read the passage aloud again (someone of the opposite sex from the first reader). This time the purpose is to hear or see Christ in the text.
    a. In silence, consider how the word or phrase touches your life. How is Christ touching you through the word or phrase?
    b. Share what you have heard or seen with the group.
  4. Read the passage again, this time for the purpose of experiencing Christ’s call to do something or change in some way.
    a. In silence consider how Christ is calling you to action or change.
    b. Share what you have heard from Christ.
  5. End by each person praying for one person in the group (e.g., the one on their right) based on what was shared by that person and as led by the Spirit.