How Do I Know? Who Can Help?

In response to my last blog post, I received a query that was very specific to some questions we all wrestle with. Here is the question:

You wrote, “It is a life long journey to grow in receiving the Father’s love, to learn to drink deep draughts of the Father’s love.” How does one receive the Father’s love, and how does one know when this is truly happening?

….How does one find a spiritual mentor old enough to understand where I am in life?…..I’d like to find someone besides my wife to share deeply with, but have found it hard to find someone I could trust.

There are two key questions herein:

How do I know I am receiving God’s love?

How do I find a spiritual mentor to walk with me in this journey?

Let’s take each of these questions one at a time as I sense they are common to us all.

How do I know I am receiving God’s love?

First, it is essential to define some terms. When we speak of love we are not only speaking of an emotion or a feeling.

The Apostle John instructs us that God is love. Love is a Person. What this reminds us of is that God is not merely doling out experiences of love, joy or peace. He is giving himself to us. This is a relationship

What he yearns for is for us to know him. In knowing him, we will know his love.

But how do I know?

Second, let us consider our response. Granted, this is a subjective dynamic. All relationships entail elements of subjectivity – how we experience another.

What God asks of us is not to try harder, do better, do more….He simply asks us to trust him. This is a simple act of faith. He says he is love. He says that his Spirit is constantly spreading abroad within us his love (Romans 5:5). He asks us to trust that he is in fact doing that regardless of what we feel.

Personally, I seldom have any sense of a transaction taking place. Yet, I have grown, or he has grown me, to trust that he is doing what he promises to do even if I do not sense it. The cumulative affect is that over decades I am far more at rest in his care and love than ever before. He is loving me – his life is constantly overflowing into mine. I can rest in that reality.

God is always active within and around us. Discernment of that reality comes differently to all of us. This is largely an unseen spiritual dynamic. Thus the invitation to trust.

Third, we have to acknowledge that all of us are handicapped in receiving and extending love. Each of us have been hurt and have hurt others in relationship. God’s sanctification of us is the life-long process of maturing us in his love. For some of us – due to personality, life story, and other reasons – sensing his love will come more naturally. For others of us, it will be a true stretch – we will always struggle to know that we know that we are being loved.

God knows us well. He is aware of when and with what we struggle. He is patient and kind. He is not driving us. He is gently drawing us.

What pleasure we bring to God when we simply trust him, regardless of feelings, that he is who he says he is and is doing what he says he is doing.

A common prayer of mine is for God to teach me his ways that I may grow in sensitivity to his inner workings in me and around me. He is eager to do that for us.

Be aware that the enemy’s primary desire is to distract and discourage. Discouragement can be a significant temptation, especially as we age. Resist this temptation. Don’t look within yourself. Look to him and trust him. This may not be a satisfying answer, yet it is the way God has set up our walk with him.

How do I find a spiritual mentor to walk with me in this journey?

Essential to this growth process is having others to journey with. Often others see God’s activity within us before we do.

Peers are essential, of course. Moreover, we need spiritual guides. Someone whose role in our life is to watch and listen with and for us. I find that having someone reflect back to me what they are hearing and seeing in me is invaluable.

A spiritual director is ideal. A spiritual director focuses his or her efforts on listening with the directee as to God’s presence and activity in the directee’s life.

It is true that as we age it is harder to find someone further down the path to guide us. Sometimes that ideal of an older guide can be set aside as God provides someone close to our age or even younger.

There are growing numbers of directors across the country and internationally.

Within North America here are some key spiritual director listings:

Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association

Selah Spiritual Formation

Fall Creek Abby

Sustainable Faith

If you know of other entities internationally, please send those to me and I will add them to the list.

Key to finding a director is to interview them. Set up a call or meeting for a 30 minute talk. Ask them questions you are curious about. If you have never met with a director tell them and ask them to explain the process. Settle on someone, give it a try for 3 months, and then evaluate. Don’t give up searching though. This is too valuable a practice to shrug one’s shoulders and not keep pursuing.

Be prepared that there will be a fee. This is money well invested.

I hope this provides a start to these real life questions. Please send a response if you have other questions or additional helps to share with others. Thanks!

Posted in Living Wisely, Personal Vitality, Resources | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

5 Themes Amongst Cross-Cultural Workers – Theme #1: Not Taking Spiritual Vitality and Growth Seriously Enough

Amongst those in vocational ministry there is a consistent theme of being under grown in spiritual depth for the vocation before them. True, we are never adequate in ourselves for what is before us. But is our growth trajectory one of steady deepening or spotty ups and downs?

How would you describe your intimacy with the Father now compared to 5 years ago?

Are you receiving more from God than you are giving out over the big picture of life?

Do you have a spirituality that is adequate for your calling – your private life and your professional expression?

Too may of us are running on our own energies. We are starved. Famished. Malnourished spiritually.

This is not sustainable.

How do we get here?

One lie that drives this is that with so many needs around us it is selfish to tend to ourselves. So we over extend in work to our own demise – spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally.

Another lie has to do with our sense of identity. The danger is to find our identity in what we do for others and how others in turn perceive us. We can be doing very important work, essential work, and be fueling a false identity all at the same time.

These lies and our responses to them get us into deep trouble. The weariness within is deep.

I have also found another fundamental issue at hand. We don’t know how to walk deeper with God. No one has modeled it for us, guided us, provided some mentoring and direction. So we feel stuck.

Let’s break each of these down.

Undoing the Lies

Jesus did nothing, nothing, apart from the Father’s presence and directive (see John 5:19, 30; 14:10, 31). So what was the Father’s pattern with his Son while he was on earth?

Jesus was the first and only one who could solve every need he ever came across. He met many of those needs. Thousands were taught, fed and healed. And yet, and yet…he did not meet all needs.

He deliberately walked away from some in need. As a man he could only be in one place at one time. He had his limits. He tired. He hungered. He often went to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16) which clearly means he left people with their needs unmet (Luke 5:15).

How often is often? We are not told, but it was often enough to warrant Luke to mention the clear pattern early in Jesus’ ministry. The other gospel writers also refer to his seeking solitude. Read through the Gospels and note how often Jesus is away from others praying. Start with Luke, then head over to Mark.

This is our model. Jesus has not asked us to do his work for him. He has invited us to join him in his ongoing ministry to the Father. Jesus’ ministry has a very clear pattern to it. He wants to teach us that pattern.

We live life with Jesus. In relationship. In communion. Communing relationship requires time – time alone with one another. Daily time alone (word, prayer, reflection). Weekly time (Sabbath). Monthly time (day of prayer/solitude), Annual time (retreats, vacation) and beyond (sabbatical).


This leads us into the other lie regarding our identity.

Wherever you are in life, whatever work you are doing, the Father’s greatest desire is for you is to know his love for you. Not just get more stuff done.

God is not a pharaoh. And we are not his minions scurrying around building his kingdom for him. He does not need us to build his kingdom.

God is Father. He has made us his daughters and sons. As stated above, we join Jesus in his ongoing ministry. But first, we must learn his love. For all we do is an overflow of his life and love from within us.

Note Jesus in John 5 -“The Son can do nothing on his own accord. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he is doing.”

As it was for Jesus, so it is for us now. In John 15 Jesus directs us to abide in him, in his word and in his love.

Our identity is not in what we do or what others think of us. It is what our Father has to say about us. It is a life-long journey to grow in receiving the Father’s love, to learn to drink deep draughts of the Father’s love.

The lies are broken as we learn from Jesus his easy, light way (Matthew 11:25-30). It will include seeking solitude with the Father that we may grow in his love and learn Jesus’ pattern of sacrificial service. This takes time away from all that we are otherwise doing.


Mentors, spiritual directors, pastors, counselors, and guides are essential to walking well with God and others. Ask God for these ones in your life. They are there. Don’t stop looking and asking until you have a handful of them in your life to learn from.

Take Away

I recently heard it said that if one doesn’t take sabbath and solitude seriously, there can be no progress spiritually.

Where has the Spirit been drawing you in your relationship with him?

Where do you desire most to grow?

How would you describe the state of your spiritual vibrancy?

Who can come alongside you?

Posted in Living Wisely, Personal Vitality, Spiritual Vitality, The Shepherd's Health | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Revisiting Major Themes Amongst Global Workers

When I began this blog 9 years ago I wrote on 5 themes I had been seeing whilst working with cross-cultural workers around the world. You can find that first blog here.

I followed that up a number of years later with some fresher observations, you can see the start of that series here.

I’d like to nuance that list of 5 themes again. The observations I have written upon over the past years still stand. But I am looking for the deeper causes to these effects. Accordingly, I have come up with a new 5. There is clearly some overlap in these lists. I am trying to bore down deeper though. How do we get here?

Here is my current 5. These are part observed themes and part dangers to be aware of.

  1. Not taking one’s spiritual vitality in Christ and deliberate growth seriously enough
  2. Task over relationship – that goes for relationship with God too
  3. Inadequate (or absent) theology of suffering and understanding of spiritual resistance
  4. World/societal-values driven vs Kingdom-values directed
  5. Consequently, a deep abiding weariness that promotes self-preservation over overflowing self-giving

Over the coming weeks I will expound on each of these themes.

Today, I’d like to invite some self-reflection. Before you roll your eyes and move on over to instagram, consider….Self-reflection, according to Proverbs and other passages, is a wise spiritual practice. “Consider your steps” we are advised. The following is for your slow prayerful, consideration:

How is your spiritual vitality? How would you gauge that dynamic?

How are you growing in receiving the Father’s love to you personally?

How consistently and deeply are you receiving spiritual input, nourishment and renewal? What practices and sources are providing that for you?

How are the key relationships in your life fairing? Where do you sense lack? What do you yearn for?

What are the values that impact your daily actions and choices? (Values describe how one aspires to behave in all scenarios, but especially relationally).

Describe any level of weariness within you – physically, spiritually, emotionally, vocationally….

Take some time to reflect deeply. No shame allowed. Simply hold your reality before the Lord in this Lenten season. Confess that which is misaligned. Rejoice in the God’s mercy for whatever shines forth beauty, truth and goodness.

Next: The observation and danger of not taking one’s spiritual vitality in Christ and deliberate growth seriously enough.

Posted in Living Wisely, Personal Vitality, Shepherding Well, Spiritual Vitality, The Shepherd's Health, Thinking Well | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

2022 Reads List

Aren’t books wonderful? I love the feel of a new book in hand. I have growing stacks all over the house. Some I find I tuck into again and again.

Attached is my 2022 reads list.

Please feel free to share this list with anyone.

Please share you favorite reads of late – any genre!

Read on friends, Scott

Posted in Shepherding Well | 4 Comments

Annual Reads List 2021

Aahhh, it has been a bumper year of books. Attached is my reads list for 2021.

PLEASE, feel free to share this document.

PLEASE, send me titles you found especially enjoyable to you – any genre.

Thank you. Read on!


Posted in Shepherding Well | 4 Comments

How Clear is Your Line of Sight?

Line of sight is “a straight line along which an observer has unobstructed vision.”*

How Unobstructed is Your Vision?

Behold what manner of love of the Father that we should be called his children. 1 John 3:1

The presence and person of God is transformative. The Father’s love has an effectual, procreative impact on all who receive it. The Father makes us his beloved children through Jesus.

Then, merely seeing His Son further transform us. Sight transforms.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

That verse refers to the day we see Jesus face to face. But that sight has already begun now.

The Spirit gives us sight. The Spirit spotlights Jesus, causing us to behold him, to have our attention and gaze directed toward Jesus; to be transfixed. A fixed gaze is what we are receiving.

We are Changed in the Beholding

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

The Lord Spirit graces us to see through the veil of this world into the next to behold the Lord Jesus. In this life, we are being transformed from one degree to the next into the likeness of Jesus. The written Word is one primary means that our sight is healed and directed toward Jesus.

These are some very WOW! truths.

We do not become more like Christ by our moralistic efforts.

We do not become better versions of ourselves by merely doubling down harder and harder.

We are Changed in Relationship

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, behold and love one another in eternal relationship.

By the Father’s desire, Jesus opens that circle up to us. We are drawn in by the Spirit. Our God is gazing upon us, loving us – the Spirit is ever pouring out the Father’s love within us (Romans 5:5). We respond in kind, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). We are changed day by day in this relationship.

So how does this change happen?

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9

Remember, the Father has made us his children. This is not merely a positional dynamic, he has actually put his life in us. When we hear the gospel and receive that message of Jesus, the Spirit regenerates us, we are reborn into a new family and life. We actually have the Father’s “DNA” (“seed”) in us.

Progressively, the longer we walk with God, our gaze fixed on Jesus, receiving the Love the Spirit is pouring in us, we become more and more like the Son, who is the exact image of the Father. What this looks like is that gradually the Father’s character traits are manifested through us in relationship towards others: love, joy, peace, patience……

How Unobstructed is your Line of Sight?

Our line of sight is so important.

What is obstructing your line of sight between Jesus and yourself?

What distracts your gaze? Clouds your vision? Creates a fog bank between you and him?

Are the decisions you’re making drawing you closer or moving you away from Father, Son and Spirit?

Devices (yes, phones and all that), are built on a platform of distraction. It is a core business model. That might be one element that obstructs our line of sight to Jesus. There are many others factors that potentially block one’s vision.

How about you? Talk to him about it. Ask him to heal, to draw, to heal your sight. He will do it with great joy.

*Oxford Dictionary definition

Posted in Living Wisely, Personal Vitality, Shepherding Well, Spiritual Vitality, The Shepherd's Health | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing In Discernment

Several years ago I came into a season of a very heavy spirit within. It was a time of desolation, of conviction. I had experienced this before. God was instructing me, showing me a pattern in my life that was not to others or my own benefit. It lasted for some weeks. The Father was not punishing me. He was pruning (John 15:5), disciplining, and training me as his son (Hebrews 12). He was causing me to see that at times I was not being a good example toward others.

In short, he was teaching me spiritual discernment.

Let’s look at the encouraging way in which God grows his children in spiritual discernment over time.

Growing in Discernment is Relational

In the previous entry I refered to Hebrews 5 and Luke 9 as two examples in which disciples of Jesus were not responding wisely to circumstances in their lives due to lack of spiritual understanding.

Those two passages use the same Greek word. That word is used only one other time in the New

Testament, in Philippians 1:9:

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent….” Philippians 1:9-10

That word discernment is what the disciples were lacking when Jesus was telling them of his impending death (Luke 9). Here in Philippians 1, Paul is praying for growth in discernment. The word means to perceive or understand.

Note how this is built in us – by love.

As the Father’s love abounds in us we mature. Growing in discernment is a relational dynamic. God never sends us out on our own to figure things out. The Spirit is within us as a guide.

This is why Jesus beckons us to abide in him, in his word, and in the Father’s love (John 15). We cannot grow in discernment apart from Father, Son and Spirit.

There is no inner, self-generated fount of wisdom we tap into.

We look to the Father who grows us in love and thereby we are matured. That is what the Father was doing in me during the season of desolation years ago.

Growth in Discernment is a Process

Philippians 1:10 says: so that you may approve what is excellent….” The phrase “approve what is excellent” is a single word in Greek. It is used in other passages as well.

Romans 12:2 – by testing you may discern the will of God

Ephesians 5:10 try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord

1 Thessalonians 5:21 – test everything; hold fast what is good

The word means to examine, interpet, discover, approve. Note the dynamic of this being a process, similar to a trial and error dynamic. We learn as we walk with God. It takes time. A lifetime.

This takes the pressure off. In Luke 9 the disciples still had a long ways to go in their maturing in discernment. Jesus knew that and was gentle with them, though direct. He is with us too.

Practicing Discernment

Discerning the will of God is not about mastering a general blob of non-personalized morality. It is unique, specific, personal, and unfolding to each individual as we mature, age, and walk with God deeper and deeper in his love. 

Let’s look at Romans 12 for example. 12:1-2 is well know to us. Paul beckons us to yield our lives to the God who has given himself to us. Then note how the chapter unfolds.

The next paragraph speaks to our spiritual gifting (12:3-8). We grow in discernment in how we use God’s generosity in our lives for the sake of others. This is specific to each of us. Two people with the gift of hospitality will manifest that gift in very unique ways. We progressively learn how to do that.

The next section (12:9-21) is on character development which is primarily manifested amidst relationships, some of those relationships being riddled with conflict. Again, specific people with specific personalities in the midst of particular relational dynamics. What does it mean to discern God’s desire for me to love others (even enemies) in any given relational situation?

Now we are getting down to the spiritual discernment we are after. Specific acts in specific situations.

The question then becomes: What is Jesus’ way of life and wisdom and love for each person at each stage of life in each particular relational situation? We learn by testing and growing in discernment. 

Practices toward Discernment

So how do we grow in discernment? Nothing new here.

We abide in Jesus. We yield to the Spirit. He is delighted to teach us his way of love. But patience is required. There is no master plan downloaded into our heads. This is a life of walking with God. And we need counselors, mentors, spiritual directors, pastors and friends. It’s always about relationship.

Word. The Spirit will never lead us contrary to the Word. The Spirit nourishes and grows us in Jesus in the Word. Everyday.

The spiritual practice of examen is particularly helpful. The key to keeping the practice of examen on course is for it to be grounded in the Trinity and the Word and not only our inner musings. That being said, our emotions are key. That season of conviction I experienced some years ago was not pleasant. I was frustrated with myself. I was aware of sadness, disappointment, even embarrassment. God was not calling me to get my act together. He was calling me to himself. And with his arm wrapped around me drawing me into his love, he was shaping me and helping me to see in very specific life situations how to live with true spiritual wisdom and discernment. As I reflected on where I was sensing his presence, love and joy (consolation) I was to follow his lead to be other-centric. Where I was sensing my own self-determining way (desolation), I was to turn away from. There are many resources on the practice of examen out there, just make sure the questions point you to God in response to his Word and not merely looking within yourself for some inner enlightenment.

Growing in spiritual discernment is a relational, life-long process as God shapes us in his likeness in real-time, real life events. Ask him to grow you in his love toward true discernment. He is already on it.

Posted in Living Wisely, Shepherding Well, Spiritual Vitality | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Lack of Spiritual Discernment

I want to pick up on a topic I brushed up against in the previous entry – which has received quite a strong response. (Thanks for the feedback friends!). The topic is growth in spiritual understanding.

In Hebrews 5, the author warns the readers against making an unwise decision in their faith journey. In short, they were not grasping the doctrine (teaching) of justification. They were considering either bailing all together or maybe at least adding a little of their own efforts to what Jesus has provided.

There is nothing we can add to what Jesus has done to secure our forgiveness. It is total. Complete. Absolute. Finished. Done. When we seek to add to Jesus’ work we actually detract from it for it is a free gift received by trust.

Note what the passages states and the cause:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12-14

In short, to put this in a positive way, when we consume the solid food of God’s word on a constant basis and, by the Spirit’s empowerment, go forth to live it, progressively our “powers of discernment grows.” It is relational, it is grounded in the Word, and it is progressive – we mature over time.

Here is an example of the disciple’s displaying their lack spiritual understanding in Luke 9:44-45.

“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

They did not perceive it. Hmm. It was concealed from them? Really? How?

Jesus is not speaking vaguely here. He could not say it any clearer. He repeatedly told them what the Gentiles would do, what the Jews would do, and yet they did not get it. If Jesus was not concealing what was about to happen, then what was causing the lack of perception?

In a word, bias.

The guys were biased in their opinion of what should happen. Jesus is the Messiah. And the Messiah is coming to crush Israel’s enemies and usher in peace and prosperity for his people. So they thought. But this is not what Jesus was saying would happen.

Besides, since when are the disciples afraid to ask Jesus to explain something? They asked Jesus to explain the parables a number of times. They asked him to teach them to pray. Why did they not ask for clarity on this one?

They were afraid of the truth.

The very next verse the disciples’ bias is exposed. They began to argue who ought be greatest in this coming kingdom. They did not want to talk suffering, they wanted to talk greatness.

Their powers of spiritual understanding were underdeveloped at this stage and it caused them to misunderstand what Jesus was saying in very clear, direct language. They could not grasp the truth spoken plainly to them.

Here is the point: It is possible to have clear teaching, specific guidance from the Lord, and still misunderstand because we remain underdeveloped in our spiritual understanding. Like those warned in Hebrews 5, we need our powers of discernment trained by intake of the Word and constant practice.

Thankfully God is committed to our growth in spiritual understanding. He is patient and gracious.

Next entry we will look at Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:9-10, and some other related passages that detail that we grow in spiritual understanding relationally and over time as we take in God’s word.

Until then, may the Spirit who is your constant companion and guide, lead you into all truth and encourage you in the Father’s love and Jesus’ constant intercession and advocacy on your behalf – personally, by name.

Posted in Shepherding Well | 3 Comments