Upon Examination

jun26“I won’t take any advise from someone unless I know their spiritual life.” Her voice was stern, determined, with an unswayable undertone that made my fingertips grip my mouse tighter. There were a couple of empty tables between the couple and myself, yet even with the coffee grinder whirling and the chatter of baristas, I could hear her words clearly.

“I won’t take any advise from someone unless I know their spiritual life.”

I don’t mean to be eavesdropping. There really is no excuse. As a writer who has taken several writing courses that encourages to observe the people, the stories happening in our ordinary spaces, I tend to ‘tune’ into conversations without a lot of effort. Mostly I pay attention to ‘sound bites’, clips of words that my imagination can expand on as well as voice inflections and speech patterns.

Sometimes though a conversation heightens all my senses.

I know I don’t ever get the full-story.

But the words, the clips can cause me to pause enough to grab my pen or open Scrivener on my lap top.

“She’s teaching about mindset and how most of our problems have to do with mindset…I won’t take advise from anyone unless I know their Christian….”

“Even if a doctor says it’s depression and gives advise how to deal with it but I won’t take advise from her unless I know her spiritual direction…”

Later asking the Mexican barista…”I’m going to Mexico and want to teach these people about God….”

Leaving the cafe, commenting to her companion…”well I don’t care….”

I don’t hear the words clearly, and could be mistaken, but the tone is dismissive.

And a story idea begins to form.

Christian fiction writer, Ted Dekker, teaches that our character’s journey in the stories we write can explore our own faith questions.

So I found myself typing out the questions…

What would happen if a Christian never took advise from someone they did not see as ‘spiritual enough?’ Is that obeying or disobeying God? Would our lives be richer or smaller?

Currently I do take advise from others that are not of my faith, my trust often secured by their expertise from academia, experience and/or referral. My physician, nutritional counsellors, professional fitness trainers to name a few.

However, it can be tough to know what information is really true, to take in and apply when it flies at us from so many directions like a snow squall.

Life can be complicated that way, can’t it?

Recently my bible study led me to Paul’s journey to Berea.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

And I pondered about the teachings of Jesus– would I have listened and accepted this new view being presented? Or been angry? Even dismissive?

Or eager like the Berean Jews?

Although they did not just take in Paul’s word and believe.

These listeners also examined the Scriptures evaluating Paul’s sermons for themselves so they could trust or dismiss his teachings.

And, I imagine, the many that became believers must have been quite delighted to come to the conclusion that is was all true!

As a result, many of them believed, as did a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. Acts 17:12

To even listen in the first place to Paul and Silas, they would have had an open-mind to these two teachers that wandered into town and into their place of worship.

jun262

They listened with eagerness AND discerning hearts, putting into practice Paul’s teachings that we read in Colossians.

So see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

Carefully they examined Paul’s words against the scriptures they’d been studying and knew to be true.  I imagine, too, being already very familiar with scripture, they would have had the word hidden in their hearts as taught by Psalms.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

We are taught well how to evaluate spiritual teachings .

We are to be open-minded and eager to listen. However, we are to verify and evaluate comparing what we hear with with what we know is true–God’s word in scriptures.

And the more we know the trust worthy source of The Word the more we are safeguarded against false-teachings.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

As for never taking advise from others, even doctors, that do not share our spiritual believes like the cafe lady I eavesdropped on…? Hmm… I may just follow Ted Dekker’s advise and explore the concept through fiction! Do you think it would make a compelling story?

Lynn J Simpson, Author/Coach/Photographer at Inspiring Hope in You

Linking up this week with #TellHisStory

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30 thoughts on “Upon Examination

  1. This is a great message. We may not always agree with someone, but listening to their views can strengthen our faith. Who knows? Maybe one day, they will be led to Christ just because we listened to them.

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  2. Very thought-provoking! First, I also would have been that person who listened into other conversations around me. I would love to know more context of that woman’s conversation. However, the question you ask has left me thinking of my own response. “What would happen if a Christian never took advise from someone they did not see as ‘spiritual enough?’ Is that obeying or disobeying God? Would our lives be richer or smaller”?

    That is going to take more time. Thank you for pointing us to Paul and Silas and how we should examine what other’s say against the Scriptures. Glad you shared this at #TellHisStory.

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    1. I’m glad I’m in good company when listening in to other conversations in coffee shops! Context though is hard to get with just these little conversation bites but nothing can stop us when writing fiction to explore in our imagination! Paul’s journeys teach us so much. Thanks for your comments here Mary and hosting #TellHisStory

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  3. I definitely am one of those writers who has a listening ear for anything that might make a good article! I actually had a professor in college tell us to go to some public place and simply observe. Then write a story from that. So I totally get it! And I also love the Bereans, for, as you said, they listened AND studied God’s word with eagerness to make sure what they heard lined up with Scripture.

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  4. The greatest tool we have is to be discerning when we listen to others teach. But the question is how can we be truly discerning? We must be in the word of God ourselves. If we are learning the truth, we will recognize falsity in what people say. We don’t have to know their whole life or spiritual walk, on the other hand, we do need to know the word of God. 🙂 Great post! Love how you “pay attention to ‘sound bites’, clips of words that your imagination can expand on;” I do the same. 🙂 Observation is such a great writing resource. 🙂

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  5. This is so wise!

    There is a huge difference between getting advice on things like which push-ups to do and how to bake healthy bread and what you should do with your life. For the big things… I have a rule: If you want your life to look like someone’s, take their advice. If you don’t, run screaming into the night and don’t look back.

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  6. Lynn, what a thought-provoking post! As a fellow writer, I enjoy “eavesdropping” too. I’ve learned some interesting tidbits, and even a little on characterization for people in my books who are different from myself (can you modern teenage girls?).

    That said, the idea of creating a character exploring the ideas you’ve shared would be fascinating. 🙂 I’ve found that there are professionals in fields who are not believers but have a lot more knowledge than I do on certain topics. I’d definitely listen to their advice and seriously consider it. When it comes to spiritual questions, I’d be more inclined to listen to those who are further along their spiritual walk than me than to those who have a different “religious” worldview. However, it’s interesting to listen to those with other worldviews to better understand why they believe as they do.

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    1. Teenage girls would be fun to ‘eavesdrop’ on I think! Maybe a bit sad too, with all that they are going through. I so agree with your thoughts here Jeanne. Taking advise from those who can be mentors for our spiritual walk is wise. And then learning about others to seek to understand their world views displays kind listening. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  7. I may be reading the tone wrong, but this made my heart hurt because it sounded like her heart was hard. Yes, we should be discerning, but we should never be callous.

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    1. My heart hurt too, Heather when I was listening in. I trust I don’t have the full-story of course, so can’t judge but do learn how important it is to not have a hard heart, as you say, as a Christian. Thanks for your thoughts here!

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  8. Enjoyed this, Lynn. We writers can’t help but ease drop on conversations. It does make for great writing material. And yes, we need to evaluate spiritual teachings and make sure they line up with the Bible. This is it in a nutshell, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

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  9. Gosh, my first reaction to that comment you overheard was a cringe of my heart- because if we don’t open our eyes and ears and hearts to ALL people, consider their views, their opinions, their abilities, then how do we engage with the lost? There are many Christians who close doors and create barriers and cultivate a life of secluded fellowship, and I really struggle with that approach. I believe God wants us to REACH out to those people- and in doing so and truly trying to understand their story, their input, we may, in fact, open the most important door of all- and give them a view into the Kingdom. God will use it all for His good. And if I need specific help for me or my family, like surgery or medical advice or college admissions information- my first question won’t be to ask if they are Christians. BUT if I need spiritual counseling, Christian discipleship and mentoring? Well you BET. Of course, that is an entirely different area that can be discerned with who is equipped to help us grow- so that is THE question to ask.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking message, Lynn!

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    1. Such wise words Christine! Seeking to understand, loving ALL others as ourselves, which includes listening to them. And yes, that is a great question to ask when we need spiritual counselling or looking to grow deeper in our faith! Love your thoughts here, my friend!

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  10. I chuckled at the part about the fitness trainer. I like the way you mentioned to really dig into the Word and pray about advice that you have been given from anyone. God can use ANYONE to get a message through. We just have to be careful whether or not it is He who is the actual send. Prayer and study solves that. Thanks so much for this 💕

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  11. Yes, it would make an interesting story. And may we be like the Berean Christians, and see that what we accept as truth is what God has said. Thanks for this post, Lynn. Blessings to you.

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  12. I have come a long way here. I used to be like that woman, and God in His mercy has taught me that I am never to be a judge of someone else’s spirituality. I don’t want people judging me when I say things that are incorrect and look like a loose screw! I think truth is truth and God determines and we should pray for discernment to recognize the difference. Paul said “I know nothing as I ought to know it.” I love your perspective on this.

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