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Thursday, March 27, 2014

You decide

We all have desired or intended results to every action we take in life.  Even setting the alarm before bed is an action intended to awaken us at a particular time to afford us the opportunity to be up, dressed, and engaged in some activity.  Some of our "aims" in life are little rote - like setting the alarm to awaken in the morning.  Others are a little spontaneous - such as when someone calls and asks if you want to hang out a while.  You manage to drop a few things you have going and make plans with the individual because you enjoy the relationship and want to get together.  Still other "plans" or "aims" in life are a little more formalized, take a little longer to accomplish, and serve a specific purpose - as when we make a savings plan or choose to live by a budget.  I don't consult anyone when I set the alarm - because I "own" that activity for my life.  I do consult someone when I want to change my investments to have them perform a little better - because their expertise is appreciated as beyond the knowledge I possess alone.  When the friend calls, I may consult my mother to see if she minds me going out, but it isn't for permission as much as it is to inform her I plan on being gone for a while. Some plans require a lot of pre-planning, while others merely come together. Those which require expertise outside of our own might not always be recognized though - because we perceive we are able to handle much more than we actually are!  Learning when counsel is necessary in forming our "purpose" is important if we are to understand the difference between choosing our own way and learning from the wisdom of others.

Form your purpose by asking for counsel, then carry it out using all the help you can get. (Proverbs 20:18 MSG)

Not all counsel is wise, though.  Some counsel is based on a totally different set of values than our own - making the counsel a little less than desirable for our lives.  In seeking counsel, we need to be sure we are aligned with others who have similar values, but also that we run all counsel through the Word of God for validation or verification.  If counsel doesn't "add up" to the principles taught in the Word, it is likely not the best for us to follow.  I think this is why it is so important for us to have a "base" upon which we make our judgments or decisions.  This "base" is the minimum set of values taught in scripture - such as those found in the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ.  God also gives us insight into life decisions through the recorded actions of the people captured in scripture.  The narratives don't just make good reading, they are meant to help us form a basis of understanding about good and unwise decisions.

Now, I began with stating there were various types of decisions we make each day in planning our day - some very basic and elementary, others more complex and requiring more thought.  Those basic things don't need a whole lot of counsel.  I think God gives us something called common sense to handle some of those things - such as knowing it takes us one hour to get ready for work, so setting the alarm at anything less than one hour prior to our time to leave is not going to get us out the door on time.  We don't need to spend a great deal of time asking God what time to set the alarm for - he gives us the latitude to decide.  If we are struggling with finding time in our day to read the Word, pray, and learn from him in our quiet time, this might be something he wants us to get some counsel about - figuring out how to order our day so we can carve out that time.  Even this counsel will be basic and not overly difficult - so just realizing we may need to arise a half hour earlier and go to bed a half hour earlier doesn't even take a trained counselor to advise us!

Those decisions which require counsel outside of our own wisdom may be those which involve changes in career, moves we may want to make with our finances, or even relationship issues we just cannot see our way out of because we are too closely involved.  When these issues arise, we seek biblical counsel - because the values incorporated into our counsel matter! We need to keep in mind the principles of counsel.  Rarely should counsel violate what we likely already know to be true in a circumstance.  For example, if it is a relationship issue which causes you to seek counsel, you likely know a little bit about why you are where you are in the relationship.  Talking it out with someone isn't meant to give you clarity because they know all the right answers, but just that they can help you bring out the pieces you already know and put them together into an ordered fashion.  Going to someone for counsel, receiving advice or plans beyond what we can see in scripture may not be biblical counsel - so we also need to follow the principles outlined in scripture.

There is safety in receiving counsel when big decisions may loom and cause us a little concern.  Military leaders of old would do this prior to engaging in any military action - and they still do down through the ages.  Why?  We learn from the wisdom of others who have had similar experiences.  A word of caution - counsel is not based on experience alone - it must align with scripture, find agreement in our spirit, and be consistent with the character of God.  We can receive some pretty good advice - but advice which does not find agreement in our spirit (the place where we commune with God's Spirit), is not worth our following.  Remember, common sense helps us with many decisions.  When they get a little tougher, God expects us to go to him with those - in turn, he may help us out a little by bringing someone into our lives with the biblical counsel to assist us in sorting things out.  Never let counsel steer you away from these safety measures.  If it does, you will find yourself in a worse place.  Just sayin!