Are You Open for Business?

Mick Turner

(Originally published on Wellsprings and Wineskins and also on LifeBrook back in 2008, this article is posted in response to readers’ request)

Our culture, it seems, is on some kind of spiritual quest. As I cruise about the Internet these days I often encounter articles, web sites, and discussion groups throwing about the term “spirituality.” With increasing frequency I also find sincere seekers, including professed Christians, attempting to define what true spirituality is. Some of the definitions are profound while others are more arcane than the tax code.

For Christians, the definition of true spirituality should not be a mystery. The meaning of the word, given to us by Jesus with alarming clarity, may not be the answer we are looking for. The definition of spirituality provided by the Lord had nothing to do with esoteric philosophical speculations, nor did it encompass the need for expanded knowledge of a multi-dimensional universe. On the contrary, Jesus told us what real spirituality was in a very direct and precise manner. He didn’t explain it to us; he showed us.

Jesus gave a new definition of what true spirituality consisted of when, as described in the 13th Chapter of John’s Gospel, he shocked his disciples by performing the lowly act of cleansing their dirty, dusty, and most likely, fetid feet. In this act, Jesus then said that he had provided an example. In his words:

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you… (John 13:14)

As Christ-followers, we are called to no less. We are called to the ministry of the towel. For the Christian, that is the meaning of spirituality. We are to be of service. Everything else, no matter how profound, is superstructure.

At its most fundamental level, proactive service, motivated by love and compassion, is what incarnational Christianity is all about. No matter what setting in which we find a need to be addressed, we are to obey and go. No matter how filthy, grimy, or smelly, we are to take up our towel and basin and hit the ground running. This is our calling and this is our duty. This is what Christ did and we are to do no less.

Even as sincere believers with a genuine desire to manifest active Christian love to our hurting world, we often complicate this issue of service to an extreme. “What is my true mission?” we often ask ourselves. “Is helping with this situation something I am gifted to do?” Other times we vacillate by comparing ourselves to others. “Are there other people far more skilled than I to help with this?” Moses tried this approach and God didn’t buy it. Although there is nothing wrong with assessing our talents and gifts, we need to realize in any situation, there is some type of service we can provide. There is at least some need we can meet. Just about anyone can fold chairs, clean a kitchen, drive a van, or deliver food.

At the end of the day, this issue of Christian service boils down to one word: availability.

We must each look into our hearts and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, ask ourselves: Am I available to be used by God? We need to be rigorously honest with ourselves in answering this all-important question. If we answer in the negative, then we need to explore the reasons why we feel we cannot currently follow Christ’s call to service. If we answer in the affirmative, then we need to find a place to serve, a way to serve, and get on with it. It is of vital importance that we keep in mind that we are Christ’s representatives here in this broken world. We are his hands, his feet, and his heart. And, we are his agents no matter where we are. Gary Thomas explains how this has come to work in his life:

“Once I begin surrendering my body to be transformed, I become a living and breathing center of possibility. I become a force that God can use to impact the world. This truth teaches me to see my life as a call to represent Christ wherever I go, whether it is at a high school basketball game, a family get-together, the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles office, a local Starbucks, or my own home. Regardless of my location, I can live with a sense of offering myself up to God so that he can encourage his children and reach out to the lost.”

Individual Christians are not alone in over-thinking the issue of service. Entire congregations can do the same thing. Instead of diving in and providing immediate relief or help to those in need, churches often choose to conduct exhaustive investigations and hold endless committee meetings, trying to design a program that will address a community need. Again, research and planning are essential, but not at the expense of allowing people to suffer while we weigh our options. Jerry Cook, in his informative book The Monday Morning Church, strikes at the heart of the issue:

“I am convinced that as Christians we are not about programs. We’re not about bigger or better blessings. We’re about responding to people who call for help because their world is falling apart. These individuals aren’t looking to be converted – they’re looking for help! Being their help – by being the presence of Christ in their lives – is the only thing we’re about. Everything else we do is secondary and can even detour us from carrying out the true purpose of the church…You are filled with the Spirit of God. You are living in this window in time called the last days. You are where you are because God has strategically placed you there. The question is, are you open for business?”

Cook makes a poignant statement here and asks the pivotal question, a question that each of us must answer with truth and honesty: Am I open for business?

Each of us must find somewhere to begin his or her own unique mission, in whatever setting God has placed us. So, again, where do we begin? Why not start where Christ himself began? As he picked up the Holy Scriptures in the synagogue at Nazareth he spoke clearly and without reservation, echoing his Father’s words from the 61st chapter of Isaiah. Christ said he had left his comfort zone in the spiritual realm and incarnated on this fallen planet in order:

 

To bind up the broken hearted

To proclaim liberty to the captives

To comfort all who mourn

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

 

Surely, these words pertain to someone or some situation you are aware of. Are you aware of anyone who is broken hearted or held captive by some form of addiction or behavior? Do you know someone who is in dire need of comfort at this time? Is there anyone in your family, your church or your neighborhood who is in need of a little beauty and joy in life; maybe someone who needs help with depression or some other type of spiritual heaviness?

As stated earlier, the first salient question is not so much “How shall I go about doing good?” No, the question is, “Are you open for business?”

Are you ready to become someone God can use? Are you ready to become, in the words of Gary Thomas, a living and breathing center of possibility?

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality, or school prayer. The critical issue is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore. He changes them into “nice people.” If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested.

Mike Yaconelli

We Are Christ’s Ambassadors

Mick Turner

Although there are many factors that seem to contribute to the general impotency of many Christians in terms of manifesting a deeper walk with Christ in daily life, it has dawned on me that one of the central problems is a lack of understanding of just what Christ has accomplished through the cross and resurrection. Further, we fail to truly understand and appropriate who and what we are in Christ. This lack of understanding leads to a lack of power, power that God intended for us, his earthly ambassadors, to have.

And that is just what we are called to become – Emissaries of Christ.

Over the years, I have studied just about every religion you could imagine and probably a few you couldn’t. With some spiritual paths, I have waded only in the shallow end and that was more than enough to discover there was truly no depth at the other end. In others, I have plunged deeply and found some things of value that have served me quite well in navigating this often tiring conundrum we call life. In still yet other spiritual paths, I have skirted the periphery but, like a moth hovering about a source of light, never landed. I don’t think this was so much out of fear of being turned into tinder, but instead, I found nothing to really land on. I think you may understand what I mean.

I guess these experiences with other faith systems have taught me two significant lessons. First, religions or systems of faith, whatever term you want to use, will not get us to God. And, at this risk of alienating many readers at this point, I include Christianity in the above statement. Institutional Christianity has accomplished many things and has more positive qualities than I can count. Yet helping a person truly find God is not one of them. In fact, I have discovered that Christianity, as it is commonly understood, often poses a great obstacle to advancement in spiritual matters.

Why is this?

I think this is true for many reasons, perhaps too many to detail in the context of this article. Still, I feel compelled to offer a few of the factors that I believe have caused traditional Christianity, in its liberal, conservative, fundamentalist, and charismatic traditions, to fail in its mandate to make disciples. I have come to believe that the institutional church has many times become more of an obstacle to genuine spiritual formation than its advocate and facilitator. I know this is a heavy charge to levy against the church and I do not make this charge lightly. Still, if one takes even a cursory look around at the goings on at most congregations, you will find little more than lip service paid to the importance of growing deeper in the faith. Granted, we can begin to witness a certain amount of change in select churches, but my impression is that this is the exception and not the rule. Further, research, especially many of the fine studies carried out by George Barna, validate what I am saying.

First of all, Christianity as a formal religion was not what Christ called us to. He did not call us to a religion; he called us to a Kingdom. Myles Munroe speaks clearly to this issue when he says:

Misunderstanding Jesus has caused Muslims to reject Him, Hindus to suspect Him, Buddhists to ignore Him, atheists to hate Him, and agnostics to deny Him. But it just may be those who claim to represent Him the most – Christians – who have in fact misunderstood and, therefore, misrepresented Him the most…..Christians have misunderstood Him as the founder of a religion and have transformed His teachings and His methods into customs and His activities into rituals. Many even have reduced His message to nothing more than an escapist plan for getting to heaven and His promises as a mere fire insurance policy for escaping the pains of a tormenting hell…..And yet a simple study and review of His message and priority reveals that Jesus had only one message, one mandate, and one mission – the return of the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.

Don’t get me wrong. I value the church. I sincerely feel the organized Body of Christ has contributed greatly to the advancement of the cause of Christ around the world and it is my fervent hope that it can and will continue to do so. However, my fear is that it will not. Does that mean the church is dead? No, I don’t think so. Does that mean that the Christian religion, institutionally practiced as we have known it in the last couple of centuries is dead? You betcha! You can get on board with that or you can get left out in the cold. The fact is my friend, the train is leaving the station and more than a few say it has already left.

Lest you think what you are reading is the raving of some lunatic on the fringe of the Emergent Church movement, you need to understand that Christian teachers and leaders from every denomination and every stripe and sounding the same clarion call. And believe me folks, these are not religious basket cases wandering around dressed in loin cloths and eating bugs. These are sincere, educated, and insightful Christians who have had their ear to the ground for many years and have heard the train coming. As an example, let’s listen to the noted and respected Charismatic pastor Rick Joyner:

Radical change is coming, and those who are not discerning enough to see it, and become part of it, will not survive much longer. This is not a slam against the church as it is, which has been effective in its time and a powerful salt and light in the earth in its generations. The church is also the mother of the great, last-day ministry which is soon to emerge. However, just as Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin (see Genesis 35:16-19), the last son born to Israel, the same will happen to the church when the last-day ministry is born.

Joyner goes on to say that the church, as we know it, has served a great and useful purpose. However, it has now outlived its mission and it is time for the next corporate manifestation of the Body of Christ to be birthed. Like anything else, however, when we try to hold on to something that has outlived its usefulness, that very thing we grasp so tightly becomes an enemy, not an asset.

Over the centuries the church has drifted far from the original moorings put in place during the Apostolic Age. This drifting was in many ways unavoidable and to be expected as believers became increasingly removed from Christ in terms of distance and time. As a result, the Body of Christ not only lost a great deal of its vitality and purpose, it gradually began to replace divine revelation with man-made truths. Space here does not permit a detailed analysis of all the ways in which this has occurred, but the following brief list is just some of the ways in which the institutional church has gradually drifted into stagnant waters that are bereft of wind – what is so appropriately called by sea-farers “the doldrums.”

Domestication of Jesus

Faith/Works Controversy

Ignorance of the Holy Spirit

Reliance Upon Professional Clergy

Overly Focused On The Salvation Half of the Gospel, to the Exclusion of the Empowering half.

Deification of Scripture

One other area of drifting needs to be mentioned and that is the tendency on the part of the church to offer a “comfortable, watered-down gospel.” Now please, don’t misunderstand me here. I am not talking about preachers who espouse positive thinking and positive living. I firmly believe in what these folks are saying. Without a positive focus, nothing can be accomplished. What I am talking about is the fact that few churches ever really get down to the nitty gritty of what a person has to do in order to become a productive disciple. In a word, they have to die!

Jesus told us this and we can take him at his word. Paul echoed these teachings, as did John and Peter, each in his own way. Friends, we are now moving into an age in which it will be increasingly difficult to be a Christian. In America, chances are we won’t have to die for our faith, but we can count on increasing isolation as the culture becomes more Post-Christian in orientation. Moreover, if we are going to become the kind of Christ-followers needed to meet the challenges of the coming years, we have to get down to it. We have to become gut-level honest with ourselves about the seriousness of our commitment to Christ.

J.I. Packer, the great theologian and Bible teacher, once wrote a great piece entitled “Hot Tub Religion.” In it he talked about religion that helped people to cope, to relax, unwind, and feel good. There is nothing wrong with this. We all need to do these things. But we need another aspect of spirituality as well. Whether you can see it or not, every day things point to increasing difficulties ahead, not just for Christians, but for everyone. The increasing tensions throughout the world and the economic woes we are experiencing are just the tip of the iceberg I am afraid.

I am not an alarmist nor am I a Doomsday prophet. But I am a realist and part of that realism sees the fact that we, as Christians, will have an important and unique role to play in the coming days. We have to be ready. By being ready I don’t mean politically discerning. What I mean is, we have to get back to brass tacks in terms of God’s call upon us. A major part of that call upon us is to be a “Holy People,” called to a special work. Each of us must ask in our heart of hearts, “Am I ready? Am I willing?”

No one can answer that question for you.

Just this morning I was over at the local high school talking to the football coach for an article I am writing for the paper. It is mid-July and this is the South. In a word, it is hot. The players were out running wind sprints, long races around the field, and drilling endlessly. These kids wanted to play and some of the marginal players just wanted to make the team. As I watched them, I was again reminded of the words of Rick Joyner:

To be called as an emissary of the King of kings is the highest calling that one can have on this earth. If we do not want our place in Christ more than an athlete wants his place on a team, then we certainly are not worthy of such a position…..One of the biggest thieves in the church today is called “the easy way.”

It is additionally imperative that we understand that the first realm of our unique work is with ourselves. We have to get down to a level of ruthless honesty with ourselves. God has called us to holiness and to nothing less. We have to work along with the Holy Spirit to remove the motes from our own eyes before we start trying to change the world for Christ. There are too many believers today that avoid the necessary internal change by focusing on the need for the world to change. Get this down deep: before the world can change, we have to change. The so-called culture wars are being fought by unprepared troops on both sides. Let’s forget the military metaphors for now and take an honest, hard look at ourselves.

As Rick Joyner says, there are no easy ways. Repentance is the first thing Christ called for at the inauguration of his mission. True repentance means to “turn around.” What each of us must ask ourselves is, “Have I really turned around?” If our answer is yes, we then ask, “Am I ready to assume the responsibilities of being an emissary of Christ?”

It’s time to take a stand with yourself, one way or the other.

© L.D. Turner 2008/2014/All Rights Reserved

Please Pray for Earthquake Victims in Yunnan Province (China)

A 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck Yunnan Province in southwest China on Sunday at 4 pm local time. The death toll at this time stands at 221 with many still missing. Please offer up prayers for those impacted by this natural disaster. We at LifeBrook are especially close to the Chinese people as my wife is Chinese and we served in China for over five years. In fact, we have friends from China visiting this weekend. Please cover this situation with prayer.

Blessings in His Light,

Mick

Wise Words for Today

We wish every preacher, teacher, and leader would come to the realization that God’s people – not to mention the world – need above all else a glorious unveiling of Jesus. . . . . . . . . . . .There is much more in Christ than we have ever imagined. And there is infinitely more to Him than we have yet to know or touch. We can never exhaust Him. Christ is so large that no search party in the universe can explore an iota of His infinite depths. What is more, He will never grow old or stale. Jesus Christ is the only thing in God’s universe that doesn’t wear thin.

Yet so many Christians are blissfully unaware of His vastness. They have settled for so much less and have known Him so little.

But mark this down: When the people of God get a sighting of their incomparable Lord – and when the world encounters His unfathomable love, His irresistible beauty, and overwhelming glory – every idol will be forced to the ground. The clouds of doubt will part from our eyes, and Jesus Christ will displace everything. But first, the church and the world must see Christ.

Therein lies the task of every disciple – to proclaim this amazing Christ to both lost and found.

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Step Into Your Inheritance

Mick Turner

I am convinced that few of us truly understand our true potential as
children of the Father of Lights, the Living God. By remaining ignorant
of who and what we are, we end up limping through life rather than
soaring. We end up settling for scraps from the table when we should, in
fact, own the table and the house that it sits in.

For many years I either failed to understand the blessings of the
full gospel or I misunderstood it. Either way, I wasted a lot of time
thinking I knew what I was talking about when, in fact, I didn’t.

I became aware of the need for sound teaching
and quality educational materials that would foster deeper awareness of
the Christian’s true potential and identity “in Christ.” Further, I
began to understand that the primary purpose of having this blessed gift
of a new identity and new personal power in Christ is to assist in the
establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. It is to this mission that we
at LifeBrook remain committed.

Understanding our true identity is intimately connected with the
realization of our divine potential. These issues are among the deeper
things God, working through the Holy Spirit, wants to impart to us. All
we need to receive these vital revelations is an open mind and a
receptive heart. We don’t need to wait until we arrive in heaven to gain
awareness of these gifts – in fact, by the time we get to heaven we
will have already been utilizing our divine power here on earth for many
years. Dr. Myles Munroe speaks clearly to these themes:

God has prepared so many deep things about who we are. Our eyes
can’t see them, nor can our minds conceive them, yet God is revealing
them to us through His Spirit. God doesn’t want us to wait until heaven
to know our full potential. He didn’t give birth to us so we can develop
our potential in heaven…..God wants us to realize here on this planet
who we are. That is His purpose in creating us. We need the Holy Spirit
because eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered the
minds of men who man really is. Only the Holy Spirit searches “the deep
things of God.”…..God beckons you to take another step into a deeper,
more relevant knowledge of your potential in Christ – Though you may
have been saved for years. You need to take this step because you still
don’t know who you are.

 You see, friends, most of us claiming to be followers of
Christ are well intended but poorly equipped to make those intentions a
reality in daily living. This statement is not intended to be a
criticism of the modern church or a slap in the face of well-meaning
Christians who are committed to bringing God’s kingdom out of the
spiritual realm and making it manifest right here on earth. Instead, I
say these words because they are true. Most of us do not have a clue as
to what we can do to not only make our lives more fruitful and
productive, but also to bring success to the calling that God has placed
in each of our hearts.

If we read scripture with diligence and an open mind, it becomes
obvious that we humans were created with a purpose and a holy mission
from the Father of Lights. We were to be his representatives here on
this earth, to have dominion, and to be the spirit-beings through which
God’s kingdom principles were translated from heaven to earth. Just
because of the Fall and its effects, nothing has really changed. How can
I say that? It is simple, actually.

I can safely say that our mandate has not changed because of the
work accomplished by Christ, when according to his calling and his
mission, he journeyed far from his Heavenly Home and took up residence
here on this world. Through the successful work of Jesus Christ, God
reclaimed all that was lost when humankind was exiled from the Garden
and sent “East of Eden.” I have little doubt about the fact that we
humans, with our finite understanding, have but a faint – a very faint –
awareness of the mysteries involved in Christ’s mission to this world
in general, and his work on the cross, his death, and subsequent
resurrection and ascension. In the words of the Apostle, we see through a
glass darkly. We do know and can take assurance of this cogent reality:
What was once lost has now been reclaimed by God and part of that
reclamation is the re-establishment of humankind’s dominion rights and
authority.

Christ sacrificed much so that we might once again live in freedom
and in intimate fellowship with God. Now Satan is forced to operate
underground, or in more subtle ways. One of his strategies, as we have
seen, is to convince us that rather than joint heirs with Christ and
God’s children of the Light, we are nothing more than sinful worms, with
no power or status under God. It is a lie from the pit of Hell.

Your choice, my choice – the choice before every believer is whether
or not we will live according to Satan’s lie or Christ’s empowerment.
As for me, I choose the latter. I will take possession of my status as
God’s representative here on earth and step into my inheritance as a
joint heir with Christ.

(c) L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved

Confronting a Double Mind

Mick Turner

These days I am increasingly convicted my own ways of being unfocused and uncommitted in my walk of faith. I am committed, don’t get me wrong, but I have my own unique ways of casting myself adrift. The Holy Spirit is rubbing my nose in this and I must say that although unpleasant at times, it is overall a positive thing.

Jesus tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand and certainly an individual divided against himself or herself cannot stand, either. I am guilty in spades and confess that I am chronically double-minded. James (James 1:8) warns against this and says that a double-minded man is unstable in all ways. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, echoes the message of Jesus and his brother James when he says:

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. (NLT)

Jesus words about a house divided and the passages cited by James and Paul all point to the dangers of double-mindedness. The Master says we cannot stand, but instead, will fall. James does not mince his words – he plainly tells us that this lack of commitment leads to instability in all areas of our lives, and Paul says that it leads to corruption and susceptibility to false teaching.

In another relevant passage of scripture, the disciples spot Jesus walking on the waves and Peter, in an initial act of faith, heads out across the water to greet his Master. At some point, however, the disciple discovers what he is actually doing, doubt sets in, and he sinks like a stone. Jesus, in his response to Peter, asks him, “You of little faith. . . .why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31). What does this have to do with double-mindedness? Plenty!

Dr. Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on this passage, tells us that the word translated as doubt actually has the meaning of “standing uncertainly at two ways.” Peter ended up with little faith because he saw two ways of proceeding and in that momentary paralysis, sank with the weight of uncertainty. This is a vivid example of the dangers of a double mind.

Held firm in our walk of faith by our firm commitment to Christ, we are encouraged to deepen our connection to the Master and in all things, to remain focused on Jesus, the author of our salvation and the Holy Spirit, the choreographer of our sanctification. In all these things, the implication is to avoid double-mindedness. Paul tells us:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body (Col. 2:6-9 NLT).

In my personal walk of faith, as I have mentioned here and elsewhere, double-mindedness has been a consistent stronghold the enemy has built up over the years. The Lord has been faithful where I have been unfaithful and he, like the shepherd looking for the one sheep that left the fold, has come to fetch me on many occasions. I don’t mean to say that I have wandered into deep sin or anything like that. Instead, my unfaithfulness has been more in seeking spiritual solace in places other than the Christian faith. The thing the Holy Spirit finally helped me to see was that there is a huge difference between the person of Jesus Christ and the religion that bears his name.

Understanding that one simple truth has made a world of difference for me. Now, I find much comfort in the “God of All Comfort” and have come to understand that he is, indeed, with me always and at all times.

And as I have come to be less double-minded, I am much less a house divided against itself. I have become more spiritually mature and less likely to wander down some seemingly fascinating theological rabbit hole, yet I do admit that sometimes the temptation still arises.

And it is in this growth that I have discovered another salient truth about the Christian walk of faith. As we become more single-minded in our commitment to Christ, we do become more mature from a spiritual perspective. We become more stable (not unstable like James warned us about) and less likely to be taken in by what Paul called “high-sounding nonsense.” In Ephesians 4, Paul gives us further wise counsel:

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Eph. 4:14-15)

Double-mindedness, lack of focus, and inconsistent commitment are all counterproductive to an effective walk of faith. I hope in some small way this article has helped to illustrate that cogent fact. And without a doubt, the scriptures cited point to the need to address these obstacles if, in fact, they do exist in your life.

I would encourage readers to spend some prayer time over the next week, asking the Master to reveal to you any areas in your walk of faith were these issues may be lurking. Also, ask for power, guidance, and wisdom in addressing whatever may arise as you do this.

Think about it.

© L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved