Better Than Potions — A Look at Decision Making

by Jacqueline Scott

How do we decide? Does God just say, “You make the choice…any way you decide, it’s good, as long as you honor Me”?  Or does He sit up there waiting to see if you can figure out what His perfect will is for you or for this situation?  Both paths seem distant and precarious. But maybe we’re asking the wrong questions.  

There are no potions, magic words, or formulas; no blue or red pill. While at times these could be quite luring, what we’re invited into is so much better.  

Listen to some of the questions of Jesus:  

What do you want?  Matthew 20:32 (So, that’s important – what you want?)

What do you already have? Mark 6:38

What do you think? Matthew 17:25

What is this like? Luke 13:18 (What is the kingdom of God like?)

What will be the cost/consequence?  Matthew 16:26

Do you want to be healed? John 5:6

You do not want to go away also, do you? John 6:67

Some of those passages don’t refer to decision making, but they draw out something that’s going on in us. In God’s overarching sovereignty He somehow loves our partnership and connection with Him in the micro and the macro paths of life.  He woos us with difficulties and draws us deeply with pain.  Sometimes that’s the only way He can get our undivided attention. 


Presence, Promises, Partnership
Embedded in Scripture we see His powerful presence, His precious promises, and His penchant for our partnership in matters concerning us, including very intimate matters. David alludes to this in Psalm 16 (my paraphrase):

You are what I need, I’m not looking elsewhere.  You have been so good. You have counseled me and because of that, my mind instructs me in the night. I’m holding You, Your words, and my understanding of You before me in my decision.  You are here with me. Because of that I won’t be on my own. So, I can rejoice in this nearness and this promise of help as I move ahead.

Although we’d like God to just make the choice for us and set aside the agony of the yes or the no, He never promises that it will be so clear. At times it surprisingly is, but more often it is that walk of faith that keeps us so utterly dependent on Him with each step.

Here are some truths that I have held onto over the years:

  • Trust, lean not on our understanding, and He will direct our path. (This assumes His greater understanding and our movement.)
  • He will guide us with His eye upon us. (This assumes His care and our movement.)
  • He will teach us in the way we should go. (This assumes hearing and listening to Him.)  
  • Get wisdom, seek counsel, make plans. (This assumes engagement in conversation.)

How do we hear Him?  That’s one of the biggest questions I come across as I coach leaders.

In Scripture we see Him lead through circumstances, other people, signs of the times, His Word, His power, His Spirit, His Church, health, desires, children, emotions, nature, clouds, fire, and worms. Our following Him in decision making encompasses all the data within and without and discerning His guidance through all these possible means.

Discernment takes practice. Hebrews 5:14 talks of “senses trained to discern.” Are we setting God continually before us, listening to His instruction, aware of our yearnings so we can discern?

We’d love for God to give us a sign with an arrow pointing the direction we should go, but more often it’s a stepping stone of faith with a live Guide, moving toward our next decision, alert to Him opening or closing doors or windows. 

Elisabeth Elliot once said, “The key to guidance is knowing the Guide.” Are you noticing His guidance in the inner and outer nudges throughout your day?


Jacqueline Scott is author of Your Life is Re-markable! She was captivated by God at age 12, became an RN, got a BS in Bible, and then a Masters in Leadership Studies. While in university she met Dan, and in 1986 they both headed to Bolivia, South America to save the world. She had four kids instead. They moved to Central Asia in 1994 in leadership with a non-profit agency. Currently credentialed as a personal and leader development coach, she works with individuals and groups in person and on-line. You can find her online at SoulFit.

Cultural or Christian?

by Leland Sawyer

One afternoon I came out of a meeting and saw a large group of men parading down the street. They had completely taken over the road and were blowing whistles, horns and singing all kinds of songs. It was a traditional Bagisu circumcision parade. The last two months of each calendar year is the season for these celebrations, and they mark when a young boy becomes a man in the cultural society. Yes, they do involve circumcision.

They also involve heavy drinking by everyone involved, several elements to pagan worship, and witchcraft. The people celebrating will drink all day and then perform the circumcision (dangerous, right?) in front of everyone. While doing all of this, the elders and leaders of the village are making offerings to and saying spells for the gods and spirits they worship.

These rituals are a part of the culture here; they are ingrained into life. And even as people come to Christ, they struggle to break free from rituals such as this. Many of these practices are steeped in darkness and pagan worship, but people hold onto them long after they have committed to following Jesus because of the strong pull and influence that their upbringing and CULTURE has on their lives. Don’t get me wrong, there are many elements of culture that are not sinful, some even are God-glorifying (such as community and family). But many elements are in direct opposition to our faith in Jesus and a lifestyle of being made into His image.

But let’s not pretend this is an African problem. This is a human problem. It has been this way since the beginning of man. At our last meeting during our National Conference here in Uganda, we focused on the history of culture invading God’s people. The Old Testament is filled with examples of God’s people adapting to their culture and sacrificing their own holiness. We see in Acts 15 how the early Christians were being invaded by legalistic Jewish culture AND by pagan Gentile culture. And we can see throughout church history similar stories.

So as I watched this parade, my first thought was about how they were letting culture dictate their lives in ways directly disobeying the Word of God. But my second thought was much more personal: How do I do the same thing?

  • How do I let my culture (both my passport culture and my new culture) trump the culture of the cross?
  • Do I allow my American individualistic spirit shape my theology more than the Word?
  • How do I allow consumerism to shape my experience within the body of Christ or how I view other people?
  • Am I concerned more about my nation (America) than God’s Kingdom?
  • Do I let the “rebel spirit of Texas” influence my obedience to God’s call?

As I process these questions, I can’t help but be torn when I know that my call is to serve God and His people, but this call is sometimes clouded by my own desires and wants. While I don’t go after the next best technology, the latest styles or fancy cars (we live in Uganda after all), that doesn’t stop me from wanting to buy things. I let my own wants (time, money, resources) trump others’ needs. I hurt inside because I see so much poverty in the streets, yet I live in a pretty comfortable and protected home.

How am I truly loving my neighbors? How am I living out God’s Kingdom rather than my own kingdom? How are my reactions to people shaped by my personal, American views rather than God’s view of people when I think they shouldn’t be doing something?

I’m hoping you also think a little bit about these questions: How do we try to hang onto our culture in a way that contradicts our Christian faith? What types of things do you need to let go of from your culture so that your faith in Christ shines more brightly? How do we live as an “exile and stranger in this world” (1 Peter 2:11)?

photo credit


Leland Sawyer, his wife and 6-year old daughter have been missionaries in Uganda for 3 years. Leland has a passion for life-on-life relational discipleship and the development of spiritually healthy leaders. He works with pastors and church leaders throughout Uganda, walking alongside men and women to help them learn more about what it means to fully live like Jesus. Before moving to Uganda, he was a youth minister for 11 years in Colorado and Texas. You can follow their family and ministry at Sawyers in Uganda.