Discernment for Dummies

discernment “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

Hebrews 5:14, NASB

“The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second, to know that which is true.”

Lucius Caelius Lactantius


Defined, discernment is the ability to perceive reality as it really is. It is a difficult quality for mentally ill people to have. We tumble through this world with wrong perceptions. We deal with issues like delusions and paranoia. Some of us are tangled up with derealization/depersonalization. We question the “realness” of our reality.

Discernment is being in a right relationship with truth.

One of my prayers has been, “Lord, let it be the real me who encounters the real you.” I’m belly-full of pretense and posturing. I know I have this strange tendency to deceive myself. I don’t know when I’m getting screwy.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

John 16:13, NIV

The Holy Spirit leads me into what is true and valid. I can trust Him to interface and interpret for me what is real and what is authentic. That is His ministry. That is what He does,  I can trust Jesus’ referral.

There are many ways that God gives to help me discern. These are the things the Spirit uses:

  • the Bible
  • personal desires, hopes, and inclinations
  • circumstances
  • solid counsel from the mature
  • common sense
  • past results and experiences
  • “gut” impression
  • supernatural leadings (dreams, visions, audibly)

True discernment comes in the objective reality of the Bible. This book wants to direct and guide me like no other. It stands as the trustworthy  director in a world of competing voices. It directs me through all of the din. I must read God’s Word to  walk in His truth.

Discerning the realness of reality once was the easy attribute of Adam. After the Fall, we (human beings) lost this ability. We currently struggle with the inability to see truth. We’re regaining this through the Spirit. Thank God we’re being transformed and renewed with this new ability. Faith is the adventure we now get to operate in.

“Faith is the divine evidence whereby the spiritual man discerneth God, and the things of God.”

John Wesley


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Listening to the Disturbed

There is a tremendous need to listen to those suffering with mental illness.

Listening takes patience.

I believe it is a rule written somewhere, that self-centered people are simply not prepared to reach hurting people.  You might say they don’t have the capability to become a good listener. One thing is certain,  listening will change you.  The more you do it, the better (and wiser) person you will become.

Listening to the disturbed takes work. You can become that catalyst for healing and wholeness. But you have to set aside your own agenda to do this.

Typically the mentally ill are intense communicators. Sometimes they can be delusional and seem incoherent. But your patience will pay off. Trust the Holy Spirit to strengthen you.

“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.”

Proverbs 18:13

A Good Listener:

1. listens with spiritual ears open, hearing and understanding the spirit beneath the words;

2. listens with the heart and mind still and th e mouth shut;

3. listens with no personal agenda;

4. listens with compassionate spiritual eyes, maintaining involved eye contact;

5. listens with a compassionate heart;

6. listens with a committed heart;

7. listens with attentiveness;

8. listens without judgment;

9. listens without fear;

10. listens with faith, knowing that the Spirit of God is at work to will and do according to His good purpose;

11. waits patiently, quietly and prayerfully through times of silence, making room for the unfolding of things previously too deep and too painful to even know or express;

12. counts it a privilege to witness a soul in the process of transformation, even when it doesn’t look like it;

13. offers to explore options wisely;

14. offers to pray when the time of tears and sharing ends;

15. consoles with words of comfort and confidence in the faithfulness of God, which is usually all anyone needs to hear;

16. waits to give advice until asked;

17. offers a hug;

18. recognizes that these are holy moments of eternal consequence;

19. keeps all holy moments completely confidential.

20. doesn’t try to take the place of the Holy Spirit.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

James 1:19


I have no clue where this list came from. But it is quite good and very thorough. I exhort you to really listen close to those with a disability. Forget about WWJD. Try HWJL.

(How Would Jesus Listen?)


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Choosing a +Christian+ Counselor

 Written by “Holly,”
“In my search for a counselor, I visited a secular psychologist, read books written by extremist biblical counselors, and had tearful talks with my own general practitioner. I wish I had known then what TYPES of Christian counselors were out there and how on earth I could find help I could trust and afford.”

Why Educate Yourself about Christian Counseling?

Perhaps you do not suffer from depression, have a great marriage, kids seem to be doing okay, everything is fine. Why should you look into various types of Christian counsel?

1) Think of a Christian counselor as an invaluable resource, much like the family lawyer, pediatrician, or accountant. When problems arise, wouldn’t it be nice to already have the information you need regarding local counseling services?

2) It’s always a good idea to have information at hand so that you can guide distraught friends and family members to a trusted counselor who can offer biblical guidance and support.

If you are a believing Christian, I MUST recommend seeking a Christian counselor.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”

Ephesians 2:19

The Problem with Secular Counsel

Many secular counselors will take your faith into consideration when treating you. However, as citizens of heaven, seeking counsel from a non-Christian is much like seeking counsel from someone who doesn’t speak your language…and he or she does not speak yours. Progress and inroads could be made, but in the long run, little will be accomplished.

There is wisdom and truth from godly counsel:

“The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong.”

Psalm 37:30

Find a Christian who is a professional counselor. There are a number of directories on the internet. Each individual counselor is different from the next, however, and you will need to interview any counselor before you decide to use his or her services.

If Possible, Find a Specialist

You may wish to choose a counselor who specializes in a specific area. There a number of issues for which people seek counsel, including:

  • Abuse
  • Addiction
  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety
  • Coping with Stress
  • Depression
  • Divorce
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional trauma
  • Family therapy
  • Financial difficulties
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Major life changes
  • Marital discourse
  • Mental illness
  • Pain management
  • Parenting issues
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Pre-marital counseling
  • Relationship conflict
  • Religious doubt/ confusion
  • Self-esteem
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexual/ intimacy difficulties

The first thing to consider when choosing a Christian counselor is whether or not they are capable or qualified to handle the particular issue you seek counsel for. A marriage counselor may not be the best person to go to if your thirteen year old daughter is battling anorexia. This seems like a given; however, be sure your counselor has experience handling your specific issue.

Decide whether or not you would feel more comfortable seeing a man or a woman for your particular problem.

Seek a Licensed Professional

Also, if you seek counsel outside of your church, make sure your counselor is a licensed professional. I suggest finding a professional who holds a minimum of a master’s degree in their field of study, who has completed the required number of supervised hours, and who has passed your state’s examination to become a licensed counselor.

Remember that most counselors employed by churches are Professional counselors, but few are not. A church counselor should be qualified through their educational experience, should have some sort of license or certification that enables them to counsel (generally they have a Christian counseling certification awarded from various Christian counseling training programs or colleges.)

Interview Your Prospective Counselor BEFORE Your First Session

Going into a counseling session before you know where your counselor is coming from can be dangerous, especially when you are in a vulnerable emotional position unable to clearly think or discern the counsel you receive.

Before your first session, make the counselor shares your faith and concerns about the issue at hand. If possible, bring a trusted companion along to get their opinion about the practice you are considering.

Some questions to ask your potential counselor are:

  • What is your Christian counseling approach?
  • Do they adhere strictly to biblical counseling or do they consider psychological approaches as well?
  • Will they work with your psychiatrist and or doctor?
  • What license or certification do you have? Is it from an accredited college? A Christian college? A training program?
  • Are you affiliated with any particular Christian counseling organization?
  • How do you integrate the bible into your counseling sessions?
  • How do your incorporate prayer into your counseling practice?
  • Do you have experience counseling people with (insert the issue for which you seek counsel)?
  • What is your payment structure?
  • Will my insurance cover my sessions with you?
  • What is your view on psychoanalysis, medication treatments for psychological ailments, and other scientific approaches to mental illness?

If you have an opportunity to interview your potential counselor in his or her office, take a good look at the books on the bookshelves. The types of books displayed give you an excellent indication of the types of counsel you will receive.

Before you make your final decision, pray on it, consult your Bible, and if possible, talk to your trusted general practitioner before seeking therapy.


Educate yourself about the various types of Christian counselors. When finding a Christian counselor, remember to find a licensed, experienced CHRISTIAN professional capable of addressing your specific issue. Interview your prospective counselor before attending your first session. Go prepared with a series of questions that will help your gain knowledge about the kind of counsel you will be receiving. Prayerfully consider whether or not you and the counselor are a good fit.




Taken from a great website for believers with issues:


Should I Take Medication?

by John Piper

What’s Your Take on Christians Using Antidepressants?

Pastor John Piper

In the end I’m going to say that there are times when I think it is appropriate, but I want to go there cautiously and slowly, with warnings.

Depression is a very complex thing. It’s got many layers. I think we all would agree that there are conditions in which nobody would deny that certain people are depressed in a pathological way, because they’re immobile. They’re not even able to function.

And then there’s a continuum of discouragements and wrestlings with having an ‘Eeyore-type’ personality, which may or many not be depressed.

So that means that I want to be so careful not to have a knee-jerk reaction. When you come into my office and describe to me your discouragements, I don’t want my first response to be, “See a doctor and get a prescription.”

I fear that is way too quick today. The number of people on antidepressants as a first course rather than a last course is large.

And the assumption is that you can’t make any progress in counseling unless you get yourself stabilized or something.

So I just want to be very cautious.

As a Christian who believes that Christ is given by the Holy Spirit to deliver us from discouragements and from unbelief and from sorrow and to help us live a life of usefulness, what makes me able to allow for antidepressants is the fact that medicine corresponds to physical realities.

And the physical realities are that we get headaches that make us almost unable to think. Migraine headaches can put a man out. And we are pretty much OK if the doctor can help us find some medicine that would not let us get these immobilizing headaches.

And the headaches clearly have a spiritual impact, because they’re making me unable to read my Bible and function in relation to people that I want to love and serve. And so medicine becomes spiritually effective in that way.

So we apply this principle that we all use to depression, and then the fact that the body is included in depression. Whether we should use the terms “chemical imbalances”—I’ve read both sides on that. Some people say that there is no scientific evidence for such a thing and others say that it is a given. Whatever. Everybody knows that there are physical dimensions to depression.

If that physical dimension could be helped by medicine—in the short run especially, sometimes long term—then I think, in God’s grace and mercy, we should take it as a gift from his hand.

© Desiring God, desiringGod.org

John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.

Mechanisms of the Spirit


Especially for the Leaders and Pastors who Guide the Ministry of the Church:


“Unless the Lord builds a house,
 the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
guarding it with sentries will do no good.”

Psalm 127:1

O my son, give me your heart.
May your eyes take delight in following my ways.”

Proverbs 23:27


The highest expression of the will of God in this age is the church which He purchased with His own blood.  To be scripturally valid any religious activity must be part of the church.  Let it be clearly stated that there can be no service acceptable to God in this age that does not center in and spring out of the church.  Bible schools, tract societies, Christian business men’s committees, seminaries and the many independent groups working at one or another phase of religion need to check themselves reverently and courageously, for they have no true spiritual significance outside of or apart from the church.” –A.W. Tozer

As believers we sometimes lose the sight of what is going on around us. We get attached to a structure or a mechanism and view it as why we are here. Ministries, churches, retreats, conventions, even websites (!): every “structure” and every effort of man— however good and noble is not the Church of Jesus Christ.

The Church is a fluid and dynamic thing. It supersedes anything we can do or plan. Our efforts are always secondary, and even at there best are minuscule. We are gifted so that we might serve others, that is true. But wisdom always realizes the “big picture” even while serving in a “para-church” context.

The Church is the bride of Christ himself. It really is the only authorized work of God in the world today. It is what the Spirit is doing in our midst. Our personal efforts (like this website) are not really the full expression of truth in this world. That privilege belongs to the body.

I’m not trying to demean your ministry or work for the Lord. I won’t advocate that we shut-down our separate efforts. But I do suggest we restore our focus on the Church of Jesus above anything we can do. Paul cared deeply for the churches; he labored, toiled, travelled, was persecuted and despised all for the Church. Paul saw Jesus as its head, and he saw it as “the bride of Christ.” No sacrifice was too high or hard for the Bride.

“Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”

2 Corinthians 11:28, NASB

We are to be servants of the Church first. We dare not be side-tracked or led in a subtly different direction. Perhaps a good way to think of this subject is that there are

  • mechanisms, and
  • organisms.

Sometimes we’re somewhat mechanical and something living. I suggest that we restore to the living Church the honor and glory it deserves. Our individual ministries can be good— fruit may even be seen. But we dare not minimize the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. She is his bride. She will rule and reign with him forever and ever.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Revelation 21:2

It will not be brokenbelievers.com that “descends” from heaven, but the Church. As important as I think I am, this website will not be in that place. This privilege belongs to Christ’s own bride– the Church. Perhaps it is this fact that we who are in ministry should consider from time-to-time: Let the church be the Church.

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Are There Benefits to Being Bipolar?

Bipolar people can be different
Originally Published on July 20, 2010 in “Psychology Today”

Let me start by acknowledging what is well known: Manic Depression or Bipolar disorder can be a devastating illness. Affecting at least 1% of the population, it can, untreated, result in suicide, ruined careers and devastated families. Bipolar disorder is often accompanied by alcohol and drug abuse and addiction, criminal and even violent behavior. I acknowledge this, because I do not want to make light of the burden this illness places on people’s lives, their families and communities.

On the other hand, the history of the world has been influenced very significantly by people with manic depression (see website www.wholepsychiatry.com for details).They include:

“It seems clear that for at least some people with Bipolar disorder, there is an increased sense of spirituality, creativity, and accomplishment. It may be that having bipolar disorder holds great potential, if one is able to master or effectively channel the energies, which are periodically available, to some higher task. This would of course presume the ability to abstain from harmful drugs and alcohol, to have good character, and at least some supportive relationships and community networks.”
 It might be helpful to consider a reconceptualization. Perhaps instead of it being a disorder, we can think of people with bipolarity as having access to unusual potency. This potency will find a way to be outstanding-either in a destructive way, or in a constructive way. If such a choice is presented to the person, perhaps it can open some doors.

Originally Published on July 20, 2010 in “Psychology Today”

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them”

Romans 8:28, nlt




When Others are More Gifted Than You


“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.”

1 Corinthians 12:4, NLT

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

1 Peter 4:10

Several years ago, the Holy Spirit completely turned my understanding of the Church– upside down. It took some time. I found that over many years I had made the Body of Christ into a competitive sport. And although I wouldn’t of phrased it exactly that way, it was how I approached the Christian brothers/sisters in my life.

I guess a great deal of effort was generated to receive the proper recognition. I had completely misunderstood the very of nature of being a ‘gifted’ person. As I look back, I was very much like James and John, in Matt. 20:20. It wasn’t so much that I was exalting myself, as I only felt (?) that I needed to push for all that Jesus had for me.

(I could go much deeper, but I feel I should be brief.)

We must learn to respect the giftedness of others. Often, this is easy. When we encounter a special ability, it can be fairly easy to do. A teacher or preacher, a worship leader or an amazing writer who has a tremendous gift is a real blessing and are simple to recognize.

However, we are probably more inclined to operate out of our own bitterness or frustration. Rather than accepting others, we look for any reason at all to invalidate and disparage. We scour and search for anything to minimize or reject our “competitor.” To bolster our efforts, we label it as “discernment.” This justifies us, as we think that it is “protecting” the Church.

The Spirit, out of His infinite inventory, distributes the gifts to the Church. And we honor and respect Him when we acknowledge that. We don’t elevate the person, but we do accept them. We don’t ignore any sin, but we recognize the treasure that is hidden in a clay pot.

A necessary thought. What about when a gift is seen in someone 30 years younger than you? Paul wrote young Timothy precise instructions on his youth.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

1 Timothy 4:12

We need to honor the Spirit. We should respect the giftedness that others have. Humility often varies with the person, the gift and the maturity. And it would be the nadir  of foolishness for us to think we have settled this issue, once and for all. There are no cookie cutters. One last thought, which is a wise course I think–

“Be desirous, my son, to do the will of another rather than thine own.”

–Thomas a Kempis
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