Discerning The Messages in Our Heads

Listen to Dan Allender’s podcast regarding how to discern the voices in our heads (see below).

In my book Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies, I wrote:

“An interpretation war has existed since the time the ancient serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. After the fall, this interpretation war grew much more complex as people did not turn to God for meaning and answers to life’s basic questions. There is a real battle that rages in the heart of every Christian. It is an interpretation war about his or her identity. This is where the world and the devil seek to kill, steal, and destroy us. This is where the interpretation war takes place each and every day.

One’s central condemning thought (CCT) is furnished readily by evil to interpret painful events in our lives. It offers an explanation for why there was relational damage, and it can trigger an autonomous vow to never let it happen again. An identity built on a condemning thought can rule a Christian for many years, instead of the gospel. This is because our default mode is to overcome condemnation by self-improvement efforts to prove the lie is a lie. One’s CCT triggers a personal strategy of Christian performance that leads to patterns of burnout, surrender, and repeat performances. Why are we so vulnerable to this? Simply put: we tend to base our sense of our identities upon our Christian performance, rather than resting on the performance of another— namely, Jesus Christ’s perfect thirty-three-year life of righteousness.”

Here is another resource to consider how to discern the messages in our heads; namely, Dan Allender’s short video: https://theallendercenter.org/resources/video/discerning-the-voices/

Staying Warmly Present

On the present moment

“Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

From The Weight of Glory
Compiled in Words to Live By

The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses. Copyright © 1949, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.






Four Seasons of Spiritual Formation


Our identity, besides being one of the most precious things to prevent from theft, crisis, or loss, is extremely important to God. The Father has given his children an identity in Christ that will shape us on our journey to heaven. If in the process of identity formation we ignore what God says concerning our identity, then we may expect confusion in other seasons of spiritual formation. four-seasons-chart_print

Just after birth, a child is given an identity. Identity formation, however, is a longer process. When Jesus Christ was approximately thirty years of age the Father spoke of his identity at his baptism just before entering fully into his calling. In the same way, identity in Christ ought to precede our calling to Christ. It is at this important season of identity that Satan challenges each of us, as he did our Lord. The devil’s first attacks on our Lord were aimed at his identity: “If you are the Son of God.”

The evil trinity—the world, the flesh, and the devil—is seeking to kill and destroy us in each season of spiritual formation. In the spring they confuse our identity, in the summer our calling, in the autumn our intentionality, and in the winter our legacy. The world escorts us to the pit; the flesh entices us to fall in; and the devil pushes us over the edge. “The pit,” as it were, represents a dark and slimy collection of lies, condemning thoughts, and foolish strategies designed to confuse and distort our identity formation.

Start a spiritual formation group on your campus or in your church this Fall by ordering a book designed for each season. See the following link https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Davis-Smart/e/B005SXVJI6/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

An Identity Group is the first of four spiritual formation groups designed to shape us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It assumes that you have to begin here before asking the next three major questions of the Christian life: Where’s my place (calling)? How do I steward all my gifts, resources, and efforts with intentionality in the light of eternity (intentionality)? What inheritance, testament, and benediction do I leave behind as I prepare to cross the river of death in order to gain eternity (legacy)?

God is Like a Parent Eagle in Three Ways

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them up on its pinions” (Deuteronomy 32:11) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+32%3A11&version=ESV

This simile is a favorite of God’s in His Word for His people, who at this time lived near mountains and watched the eagles high above raise eaglets in their nest to teach them to fly and soar.


Just like a parent eagle with us God does three things:

  1. He stirs up our nest.
  2. He hovers over us.
  3. He spreads out His wings to swoop down and catch us, bearing us up on His wings.

First, He stirs up our nests. Although God is tender to make us a nest, He is also strong to stirs us out of it to learn to fly. Has God been stirring up your nest? Perhaps He is sending out your children, or teaching you to fly to build your own nest.

Second, He hovers over us. As we mature and learn to go on mission, He does not leave us. He hovers over us. He wants us more dependent on Him than the nest He made for us in the first place.

When Karen and I were busy with our two sons in a stroller, their older sister was already on her back headed down the driveway’s hill on to the street. Cars and a truck were traveling in front of our house, but Emily was happily on her way. Karen said, “Bob!” I looked at Emily headed to the street, and everything went in slow motion. I ran to hover over her. She wen in between a car and a truck, hit the curb on the other side of the street, and began to soar off her bike and into a ravine! I caught her as she was flying. Do you know what she said? “Daddy, can we do that again?” God hovers over us like a parent, catching us.

Do you believe God will catch you when you are in danger? Has He not caught you before many crashes? God hovers over us like a parent eagle.

Third, He spreads out His wings to swoop down and rescue us time and time again, bearing us up on His wings. Exodus 19:4  reads: “You yourselves have seen what I did in Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+19%3A4&version=ESV

God rescued us in Jesus Christ. God stirred up heaven’s nest. Jesus swooped down from heaven, spreading out His arms on the cross, and carried our sins away to bring us to Himself.

Just like a parent eagle, God does three things:

  1. He stirs up our nest.
  2. He hovers over us.
  3. He spreads out His wings to swoop down and catch us, bearing us up on His wings.


Does Your Work Answer God’s Call On Your Life?

God has a call on your life, but what is it? Why did God put you in that place and in that job? The question of God’s call is what we are to make our whole lives answer.

As the Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer pondered as he wrote from a prison cell in Germany, “Who stands fast?” Bonhoeffer asserted, “Only the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.” https://www.amazon.com/Calling-Christ-Robert-Davis-Smart/dp/1512780413/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The Christian ought to not feel secondary if they do not have a full-time Christian vocational calling, which most do not have. In fact, in scripture the bible highlights how most leaders had significant roles in God’s kingdom without serving God as priests, prophets, apostles, or pastors. They were mothers and fathers, shepherds and farmers. They were fishermen and government officials.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

A leader at my church has worked his entire career at a major corporation. At a recent and helpful seminar he taught to pastors and elders at our annual General Assembly to make sure our sermons have more to do with people in the work place than pastors and missionaries. Although he has a seminary degree, he sees every work (paid or not) as sacred to God.

Bill Pence has a blog that will assist the reader in this area so that people see that every calling is sacred before God’s Face (Coram Deo). Check out his blog and resources. https://coramdeotheblog.com/tag/faith-and-work/


Fatherhood for Father’s Day

Fatherhood involves three things; namely, vision, life on life formation, and a story of salvation. In Deuteronomy 6:1-12, 20-21 God’s people had experienced an amazing salvation, and God emphasizes the value and importance of fatherhood.

In the Old Testament family included a wider circle of at least two generations and also servants, widows, orphans, also aliens, who were all protected under the father or patriarch’s headship. Children were named by the father and were known as his children; for example in the gospels John and James sons of Zebedee or Jesus bar Joseph.

The ideal father is God and manifested in commands concerning fatherhood, not so much in the narratives. At best, we see determined fathers like Joshua, Job, and Solomon (Proverbs 1:8), who declare that their families will serve the Lord and will listen to biblical instruction.

Since the family makes a nation and a church strong, God starts with a vision in Deuteronomy: “Fear God, you your sons, and your son’s sons that you may enjoy long days in the land and that you may multiply greatly” (6:2-3). Before having children, a man should sense a calling and a vision for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in the context of an experiential knowledge of God (Fear of God means just that this). In our culture we think so much about the now (secular time) that we aim and fall short of the Glory of God’s vision for our lives. Suddenly, we  find ourselves holding the little hands of our grandchildren (see photo). The time has flown bye. Fatherhood begins with vision for succeeding generations.

Second, fatherhood is life on life spiritual formation. As the word of God sets on a father’s heart, he then instructs his children “diligently” (6:7). How? By a father’s life loving on his children. When?  “When you sit in your house” and “when you walk by the way” and “when you lie down” and “when you rise” (6:7-8). Fatherhood is life on life spiritual formation or discipleship, just as Jesus called His disciples to be “with Him” (Mark 3:14). Spiritual instruction is the primary domain of the father, not the mother nor the church nor a school. It is not a classroom environment; it is a home context of life on life formation.

Thirdly, fathers must tell how they were saved by God’s mighty Hand. In fact, God tells the first Israelite fathers to make their children regularly ask the question about how papa bear and mama bear were saved. When your children ask what the meaning of all this worship and instruction is, father bear should say: “We were slaves . . . and the Lord brought us out and give us (heaven)” (6:20-21). Tell your children how the Lord showed signs and wonders in saving you from slavery to sin and Satan and idols of our culture, like money, power, and so forth. “Dad, why is our family serious about Christ in a secular culture?” Father: “We were slaves to sin and Satan, even the gods of money, work, and pleasure. But God in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, delivered us out of such darkness and brought us into His marvelous light – a kingdom of light.”

Fatherhood begins with a vision, continues for eighteen years per child with life on life spiritual formation, and constantly tells the testimony of salvation to the generations to come.

The bible doesn’t give examples of human fathers that we can model off of, but only of broken fathers in need of restoration to the hearts of their children and to God. God the Father gave His only Begotten Son to redeem fatherhood and to save both the parents and their children, and children’s children.

Rejoicing in the Lord

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Sometimes suffering surprises the Christian because God’s purposes are weightier for us than we imagined. God purposes to wean us off everything else until we realize that God is all we ever wanted. It is then that the Christian, unlike others, is empowered to rejoice in the Lord.

Habakkuk, a godly prophet, moves from tested faith in God’s goodness to triumphant faith in God’s goodness in three chapters; from fretting to rejoicing and from wrestling to triumph. The amazing truth is this: it is possible to rejoice in the Lord on the heights, while facing the deepest levels of sorrow and affliction.

What is this rejoicing and when does it occur? Rejoicing in the Lord is a leap over our circumstances when there is no more money in the bank and one’s health is in decline. It is coming to the conclusion that no matter how difficult life is in a fallen world that God is good.

Alan Gardner, a missionary in 1851, was shipwrecked with others off the coast of South America. He was the last one still living. When his journal was found after his death, it quoted Psalm 34:10: “Young lions so lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” Gardner wrote his last line: “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.”

All afflictions are designed to push the believer up to the heights above his circumstances, while still rejoicing in the Lord. Although some get bitter and angry, reintroducing God (whom they did not acknowledge before) into a philosophical debate over why He permits the righteous to suffer, the Christian abides in God’s steadfast love from the first signs of affliction to the end. You become like the object you worship. Jerry Bridges in his book Trusting God wrote: “We can be sure that the development of a beautiful, Christ-like character will not occur in our lives without adversity.”

How is this rejoicing obtained? It is realized by intentionality about one’s future. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,” the man of God says two times. Just as the apostle Paul wrote from prison, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” Why? The best is yet to come.

Children are Excellent Observers, but Poor Interpreters

Children know when something is not right in a parent(s)’s relational world. They have radar. We have seen when Karen and I were in minor conflicts that our little ones used to come hug our legs in the kitchen where we were talking. Why? They were insecure and long for well-being. When parents are well, they sense they are well too.

Children are excellent observers. When it comes to interpreting the fallen aspects of life and relational pain, however, children are poor interpreters. They, like us, need a Gospel-interpretation. They, like us, may blame themselves or God wrongly. Often it just makes sense to them that if they had just been better behaved their home would be safe and their family would simply get along.

When children are vulnerable to believe a lie, Satan is more than willing to supply one – one especially believable to make sense of their story. This set up becomes early occasions to make deep commitments to foolish strategies to overcome the condemnation they sense. Thus, a child’s drive to perform to make things well becomes a religious effort to make life work without the Gospel.

It isn’t until we name our sin, Satan’s condemning thoughts, and how the righteous life and death of Christ in our place that we find our true rest. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is more than willing to spell it all out for us with the “sweetest voice I’ve ever heard.”

Christian parents are God’s Gospel interpreters for their children, who are excellent observers but often poor interpreters.

For more, see Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies (Bloomington, IN: WestbowPress a Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 2017). https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Your-Identity-Christ-Renouncing-ebook/dp/B06XT2SSLM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491238272&sr=8-1&keywords=robert+Davis+Smart


Spiritual Failure: The Unlikely Path to Christian Success

“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61).”

When is spiritual failure predictable? The disciples were increasingly aware that Jesus was seriously and deliberately going to get in big trouble and difficulty. The situation was intensely dangerous when Peter felt led of the Lord to say something like: “Master, I know things are getting rough around here, but I want you to know that under no circumstances will I let you down. If every single one of these guys let you down, you can count on me. I won’t.” (I don’t think this made the other disciples happy, and they made sure to record this account in the gospels.) Jesus told Peter that before the crack of dawn Peter would fail him.

Spiritual failure is predictable when we rely on the strength of our own commitment, when we think we stand, when we underestimate Satan’s desire to sift us like wheat, when we lack watchful prayer, and when we presume that we can hide and blend in with nonbelievers without having to admit we love Jesus. All this was true of Peter.

How does spiritual failure happen? Spiritual failure happened to Peter so fast. Surprised by the servant girls’ questions and trying to blend in unnoticed, Peter denied Christ three times. The rooster crowed, and Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered and wept with the sting of Jesus’ rebuke, the look of compassion, and the promise Jesus made about Peter’s aftermath of failure to strengthen the others. Spiritual failure is predictable and happens fast, but it need never be final.

Peter posted his sign, “Gone fishing.” After the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter and the others fished all night and caught nothing. “Did you catch anything?” Jesus asked them from the shore. “Nothing,” they replied in admitting their lack of success. Peter knew it was Jesus and struggled towards shore to sit by another fire where Jesus again turned to look at Peter. Three times Jesus asked: “Peter, do you love me with deep intensity?” Jesus asked this three times in order to remedy Peter’s three denials.

On that day Peter became a success because Christ makes spiritual failures into his special instruments and endows them with power from the Holy Spirit for victorious living. Whereas Satan wants us to take the occasions of our failures and make it our identity: “You are a failure,” Jesus defines our identity by his victory. “You are Simon (Pebbles), but you shall be called Peter (a Rock).” Although we all have spiritual failures, Christ refuses to let them define us. All God’s heroes have spiritual failures on their resumes.

Spiritual failure may just be the path to success for the Christian.