My prayer for General Conference 2016 #UMCGC

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Liam, my 4 year old son, got glasses a week ago. He didn’t have the words or perspective, upon first putting them on, to express how well he could now see. The optometrist had also told us that he has been working so hard to see things all his life that the glasses would not be simple, immediate help. He would have to learn to let them help him see.

He was not excited about this change at all. Until, that is, we sat down and opened a book.

Liam has always loved books.  As soon as he became mobile, he would crawl, then walk, into our laps with a book in his hand. He memorized stories and “helped” read as soon as he was able to speak.

So, when I opened this book in front of Liam with glasses on, he immediately began calling out letters, spelling the words on the page.

My heart warmed to be able to witness the experience. I waited a minute or so to start reading so that we could simply enjoy this exciting new experience.

He had had no idea what he wasn’t able to see, until, with the help of glasses, he became able to see!

General Conference, the quadrennial meeting of the United Methodist Church, begins today in Portland, Oregon.  If you are United Methodist, you no doubt know there are some very, very contentious matters to be faced.  This is no exaggeration, and is truer now than it was four year ago at the last General Conference: the future of our denomination may be dramatically changed by decisions made over the next 10 days in Portland.

My prayer for all of the delegates is that they would seek God. I pray they will treat one another with the love and respect followers of Jesus show for one another. I pray for discernment and for clarity.

And I pray that all will be willing to admit that they may not have been able to see clearly before.

Because sometimes you don’t know how poorly you were able to see things until you get some help from outside yourself.

 

The Challenge of Discernment

One Monday I heard both of these claims:

  • First, someone shared the exciting news of a special ministry event in which he had participated.  What made it so exciting, he said, was that “Satan was trying to stop us at every turn.”  He went on to describe a long strings of challenges and threats to the success of the event.  The team, with God’s help, overcame all the challenges, and had a wonderful, blessed time!
  • Then, less than 2 hours later, another man shared that he had been learning the lesson of discernment from this fabulous Christian book.  To sum it up, one can discern one is on track to follow God’s will as obstacles are overcome through seeking counsel, logic, wisdom, and God. The lowering of obstacles is a sure sign of God’s will!

So, which is it?  Do you know you are on the right track when Satan is throwing obstacles in your way, or when God is providing an obstacle-free path to follow.

Person With Red Arrows Shows Many Choices
Person With Red Arrows Shows Many Choices

Call me cynical, but the answer is obvious.  We discern we are following God’s will, or the right way, when we do what we have determined we will do. If obstacles arise, we ask God to overcome Satan. If obstacles don’t arise, we assume, I suppose, God has already overcome Satan.

The Christian tendency is to turn to “Biblical Principles” to direct discernment.  You know as well as I do that given enough time and practice at ‘spin,’ almost anything can be made to sound like a “Biblical Principle.”  Let’s face it: for years, slavery was accepted as a “Biblical Principle”!

What has your experience been in your quest for discernment?  Have you moved beyond finding the proper steps to under gird your own will? If so, how?