Spiritual Disciplines: New Wineskins for Ancient Wellsprings: Part One

English: Altar and Reredos, St Wolfrida's Chur...
English: Altar and Reredos, St Wolfrida’s Church, Horton The reredos is early 18th century raised plaster work, coloured and gilded. The Dove in the centre symbolises the Holy Spirit; the four cherubs are said to be the four children of a vicar of the parish who died as infants. The “Pelican in her Piety” above is an emblem of Jesus Christ “by whose blood we are healed”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

L.D. Turner

Solomon wisely tells us in the Book of Proverbs:

Keep watch over your heart, for therein lie the wellsprings of life

 The question that often comes as one reflects on these words of wisdom is simply this: How am I to go about keeping watch over my heart?”

 Throughout the history of the faith, one of the primary ways that sincere followers of the Master have gone about keeping watch over the heart, the deepest part of ourselves, is through the practice of spiritual disciplines. Meditation, prayer, sacred study, self-examination, confession, service, worship – all of this classical spiritual traditions have a role to play in helping us become more aware of ourselves and our behavior and, as a result, have withstood the test of time as quality ways in which we can deepen our walk of faith.

As Christians, scripture tells us that we are to increasingly grow into the character of Christ – in other words – become more Christ-like. Left to our own devices, this would be an impossible demand. Tainted by sin and mostly dominated by our lower nature, who among us could generate even a sliver of hope of emulating Jesus in thought, word, and deed?

Fortunately, scripture tells us that we have an omnipotent ally in this process of spiritual formation. The Holy Spirit walks along side of us, giving us strength to offset our weakness, wisdom to overcome our ignorance, and divine love to gradually eradicate our extreme self-centeredness. It is this promise of the Holy Spirit that gives us a reason to proceed down the road of spiritual formation and further, provides us with a legitimate assurance of success.

Still, we cannot fold our arms, lean back, and wait for the Holy Spirit to magically turn us into exact replicas of Christ. Over the centuries countless numbers of Christians have tried this approach with predictable results. Scripture is clear in stating that we have a part to play in the attainment of what we here at LifeBrook call “Sacred Character.” Sacred Character is based on the character and integrity exhibited by Christ during his mission here on earth. By studying the character of Christ, we can gain valuable insight into what it means to live our own lives from the sure foundation of Sacred Character.

As Jesus walked this earth, he revealed the character of God. “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” said Christ and in this statement he revealed a profound truth. Christ was so intimate with the Father that his character and his behavior were perfect reflections of his heavenly parent. Our goal, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is to live in the same intimacy with Christ as he lived with the Father. If you want to gain a deep and abiding perspective on this kind of intimate relationship, I suggest that you prayerfully read through the 17th Chapter of the Gospel of John.

In order to grow into this type of intimacy with Christ and increasingly manifest Sacred Character in our daily lives, we must engage in certain activities that foster spiritual development in a positive and proven direction. These activities have a long and valuable history in the Christian tradition. Here I am speaking of the classic Christian spiritual disciplines.

In some quarters, sincere believers become edgy just at the mention of spiritual disciplines. Steeped in the theology of God’s unmerited and unlimited grace, these well-meaning Christians believe that pursuing the practice of the classical spiritual disciplines is somehow “salvation through works.” This kind of thinking is both incorrect and unfortunate. It is incorrect in the sense that the spiritual disciplines are not related to salvation or the final destination of one’s soul. Pursuing spiritual disciplines is more concerned with placing ourselves in a position of receptivity to the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is about allowing the Holy Spirit to form us into the image of Christ. Although this spiritual formation is ultimately a work of the Spirit, we are told to do all that we can to assist in the process. As the great Quaker writer Rufus Jones once said,

“The grace of God is like the wind blowing across the Sea of Galilee; if you want to get to the other side, you have to raise your sail.”

 The notion that practicing the disciplines is “works” is also highly unfortunate in that this misguided belief has prevented countless Christians from availing themselves of the very thing they need in order to foster the deeper, more effective walk of faith. I am of the belief that the great “faith/works” controversy of the 16th Century, although beneficial in many ways, gave birth to a trend in Protestant Christianity that resulted in pews filled with believers that were both powerless and confused. This tragic trend continues even today.

As the Body of Christ moves forward in this challenging age, establishing ministries focusing on vibrant, dynamic discipleship is of paramount importance. Unless the church develops consistent ways to grow its members deeper in the faith, it runs the danger of becoming, at best, irrelevant to the contemporary culture, or at worst, dead.

To begin, I think it is critical that we come to understand just what a disciple is. From all evidence, it would seem the church at large has lost touch with a crucial element of its mission – disciple-making. Just prior to his ascension, Christ did not tell his inner circle to “go and make converts.” No, he told them to go and make disciples. It is obvious that constructing a workable definition of a disciple is a high priority. Margaret Campbell gives us a great jump-start:

A disciple of Jesus is a person who has decided to live in attentiveness to Jesus. We live in attentiveness in order to become like Jesus on the inside and, thereby, able to do what Jesus would do on the outside. As maturing disciples we progressively learn to live in attentiveness, adoration, surrender, obedience, and thankfulness to God, and all of this, without ceasing. Through the hidden work of transformation, God writes his good way on our minds and hearts and this is very good. By his grace, our hearts are divinely changed. We are progressively conformed to be like Jesus in mind and will and soul and word and deed. What we say and what we do more consistently reflect the glory and goodness of God.

 If that isn’t clear enough, let’s listen to George Barna:

True discipleship is about a lifestyle, not simply about stored up Bible knowledge. Often, churches assume that if people are reading the Bible and attending a small group, then real discipleship is happening. Unfortunately, we found that’s often not the case. Discipleship is about being and reproducing zealots for Christ. Discipleship, in other words, is about passionately pursuing the lifestyle and mission of Jesus Christ.

 From these two definitions it should be clear that real discipleship, the kind of Jesus-following that makes a difference in a person’s life and the life of others, involves more than wearing a “What would Jesus Do?” bracelet.

It is apparent, however, that the church lost its focus on the practice of spiritual disciplines over the years. As mentioned in Part One, I think this is one of the unfortunate side effects of the historical “faith/works” controversy. The result has been a general sense of confusion on the part of the Christian community in terms of the spiritual technology available to those who desire a deeper walk of faith.

One of the primary reason today’s church is becoming less of a force in society and even in the lives of those professing to be Christian is the fact that for many years the Body of Christ as a whole had lost the real meaning of the word “disciple.” Dallas Willard speaks directly to this tragedy:

 For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership – either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denomination or local church. I would be glad to learn of any exception to this claim, but it would only serve to highlight its general validity and make the general rule more glaring. So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship is clearly optional.

 This lack of emphasis on discipleship in the contemporary church has led to many unfortunate circumstances, not the least of which is that so many Christians are walking around feeling as wounded, depressed, and hopeless as those outside the faith. That this is so, however, should not be surprising. Christ did not call us to a “country club” religion. In fact, he didn’t call us to religion at all. He called us to relationship and mission. To participate in this life-giving relationship and to fulfill our mission as Christ-followers, we must indeed become just that – Christ-followers. Tragically, few realize that this involves far more than belief in a few arcane doctrines, tossing off an occasional prayer, and being a tithing member of a local congregation. And perhaps nothing is more essential in this challenging age than having an army of true Christ-followers. Willard understands this necessity:

Nothing less than life in the steps of Christ is adequate to the human soul or the needs of our world. Any other offer fails to do justice to the drama of human redemption, deprives the hearer of life’s greatest opportunity, and abandons this present life to the evil powers of this age. The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane.

 The notion that deep discipleship was optional was not a part of the early church. Willard continues:

…there is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggest that you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus’ expense and have nothing more to do with him.

to be continued…….

(c) L.D. Turner 2008/2009/2013/All Rights Reserved

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Happy Birthday LifeBrook!

 
Happy Birthday!
Image via Wikipedia

As I was looking through the archives of the LifeBrook blog I discovered an interesting bit of information. This week marks the fourth birthday of LifeBrook. As they often say – “My, how time flies.”

I recall starting the blog back in 2008 in response to a calling to explore the use of electronic media as a venue for spiritual formation, specifically as it applied to blogging. At that time, I never dreamed the site would still be around four years later and I certainly had not entertained the fact that it would be as popular as it has become.

I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to those readers who take the time to stop by LifeBrook and it is my hope that you continue to find something positive here – something that will help you in your process of spiritual unfolding. The mission statement that I composed when LifeBrook first went up here on WordPress remains the same. It is my sincere wish that this site continue to provide material that will enable readers to:

Become the optimal version of themselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Blessings in His Light:

Mick

Wise Words for Today

Laurent de La Hyre, 1656
Image via Wikipedia

I suggest, in fact, that if postmodernism functions as the death of modernist culture, many of us will find ourselves like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We as Western Christians mostly bought a bit too heavily into modernism, and we are shocked to discover that it has been dying for a while and is now more or less completely dead. We need to learn how to listen for the hidden stranger on the road who will explain to us how it was that these things had to happen, and how there is a whole new world out there waiting to be born, for which we are called to be the midwives. The answer to the challenge of postmodernism is not to run back tearfully into the arms of modernism. It is to hear in postmodernity God’s judgment on the follies and failings, the sheer selfish arrogance, of modernity and to look and pray and work for the resurrection into God’s new world out beyond. We live at a great cultural turning point; Christian mission in the postmodern world must be the means of the church grasping the initiative and enabling our world to turn the corner in the right direction.

N.T. Wright

(from The Challenge of Jesus)

Kingdom Principles: Wisdom, Light, and Compassion

La parabola del Buon Samaritano Messina Chiesa...
Image via Wikipedia

Mick Turner

In addition to being a “sage,” – a teacher of wisdom, Jesus was also a perfect embodiment of compassion. His entire life can be seen through the lens of what biblical Greek terms “kenosis.” Kenosis is typically translated as “self-emptying love” and from beginning to end, Jesus’ mission exemplified this spiritual virtue.

It is this very concept of kenosis that makes the Christian path unique. Even within the faith itself, it seems there were and are still many who missed the boat, so to speak, in terms of understanding what Jesus was bringing into manifestation on this planet. Traditionally, the path of spiritual development has been seen as one of “ascent,” where the spiritual aspirant engages in spiritual practices in order to purify themselves. Growth is seen as an upward spiral or ladder. In Eastern traditions, spiritual practices enable us to accumulate more “chi” or “prana,” – divine spiritual energy that enables us to better live the spiritual life.

In the Jewish tradition, where Jesus and the first disciples grew and developed, this sort of spirituality was most clearly seen in the teachings of “Merkevah” mysticism. The Merkevah was associated with ascension in general and with the chariot of Elijah in particular. Elijah, as you may recall, was whisked away to the heavenly realm in a chariot. The ascetic group known as the Essenes were especially knowledgeable of the path of Merkevah.

Merkevah mysticism is especially concerned with divine “Light,” and this pure spiritual light is available to all if they know how to harness it. It is certain that Jesus was quite familiar with the tradition of Merkevah and its inner workings and is perfectly reasonable to speculate that those times he spent alone in prayer and meditation included extensive sessions of divine “Light Work,” recharging his batteries.

This path of ascension, however, was not Jesus’ primary mode of operation. Instead, his teaching and his life emphasized spiritual formation through kenosis – self-emptying love. Jesus showed the way of “giving, giving, and then giving some more.” His was a path of spiritual attainment through complete loving sacrifice. It was and forever shall remain, a path of “divine descending.”

Cynthia Bourgeault, in her wonderful book entitled The Wisdom Jesus, gives a detailed account of this path of kenosis.

In Greek the verb “kenosein” means “to let go” or “to empty oneself,” and it is the word Paul chooses at the key moment in his celebrated teaching in Philippians 2:9-16 in order to describe what “the mind of Christ is all about. Here is what he has to say:

Though his state was that of God, yet he did not deem equality with God something he should cling to.

Rather, he emptied himself, and assuming the state of a slave, he was born in human likeness.

He, being known as one of us, humbled himself, obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

For this, God raised him on high and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name.

So that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

And so every tongue should proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord!” – to God the Father’s glory

After this scriptural quotation, Bourgeault goes on to say:

In this beautiful hymn, Paul recognizes that Jesus had only one “operational mode.” Everything he did, he did by self-emptying.

The author then goes on to list the various ways that Jesus emptied himself in divine kenosis:

   He emptied himself and descended into human form.

   He further emptied himself (even to death on a cross) and fell through the bottom to return to the realms of dominion and glory.

   In whatever life circumstance, Jesus responded with the same motion of self-emptying – or to put it another way, of the same motion of descent: going lower, taking the low place, not the higher.

Bourgeault then contrast this kenotic type of spirituality with the more common ascension model:

What makes this mode so interesting is that it’s almost completely spiritually counterintuitive. For the vast majority of the world’s spiritual seekers, the way to God is “up.” Deeply embedded in our religious and spiritual traditions – and most likely in the human collective unconscious itself – is a kind of compass that tells us that the spiritual journey is an ascent, not a descent. Most students of the wisdom tradition consider this upward orientation to be one of the foundational attributes of sophia perennis itself…..In biblical tradition, the image of the spiritual ladder goes all the way back to the headwaters of the Old Testament, with the story of Jacob’s dream of the ladder going up to heaven. It’s probably five thousand years old. Christian monastic tradition returned to this image and developed it still further, as essentially the roadmap for the spiritual journey.

Bourgeault points out that the archetype of the “spiritual ladder” was so deeply embedded in Christian mysticism that the seventh century teacher John Climacus took the monastic name of John of the Ladder. I would also add that in the 14th Century, a watershed period for Christian mysticism, the English mystic Walter Hilton wrote his most famous work, entitled “The Ladder of Perfection.”

When we look to the life of Jesus for practical guidance and spiritual direction, we can clearly see that the path he taught and lived was one of perfect balance between wisdom, light and compassion – gnosis, merkevah, and kenosis. From a human perspective, he attained wisdom through immersion in scripture and tradition and divine light through the regular practice of prayer, silence, and solitude. This inculcation of wisdom and light was carried out so that he would consistently have something to give away. The Master always made connection with the source so that he could be filled with wisdom and light; and he took this wisdom and light and emptied it out in repeated acts of compassion, healing, and love. Always doing the will of his father, he emptied himself into the world so that other might have light and life. Bourgeault gives this succinct yet telling summation:

Thus he came and thus he went, giving himself fully into life and death, losing himself, squandering himself, “gambling away every gift God bestows.” It was not love stored up but love utterly poured out that opened the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven…Over and over, Jesus lays this path before us. There is nothing to be renounced or resisted. Everything can be embraced, but the catch is to cling to nothing. You let it go. You go through life like a knife goes through a done cake, picking up nothing, clinging to nothing, sticking to nothing. And grounded in that fundamental chastity of your being, you can then throw yourself out, pour yourself out, being able to give it all back, even giving back life itself. That’s the kenotic path in a nutshell. Very, very simple. It only costs everything.

 If we are bold enough to lay claim to the status of “Christian,” then we are called to no less. If you desire more insight into these themes, I strongly encourage you to do two things. First, find yourself a copy of Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Jesus and Robin Meyer’s Saving Jesus From the Church. Read these two books slowly and reflectively in tandem and make every attempt to apply these teachings to your life. Secondly, spend time in prayer and reflection considering exactly where you are in terms of establishing a balance of wisdom, light, and compassion – gnosis, merkevah, and kenosis – in your walk of faith. Pray and meditate, seeking guidance from the Spirit on what you need to do to establish and maintain a more consistent balance of this trinity of spiritual virtue.

May your endeavors and your journey bear much fruit and bring increasing manifestation to the Kingdom on earth.

© L.D. Turner 2010/All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

The life and energy of the new wine cannot be contained in the old structures. Just as first century religion could not embrace the new wine of Christ, so the religions of today, whether Eastern or Western, traditional or contemporary, program-driven or purpose-driven, are entwined with an inorganic structure of a particular culture. Our present-day wineskins are not capable of serving the new wine for today’s rising number of religious refugees and spiritual sojourners. Without a radical paradigm shift, the modern church will continue to “convert” spiritual seekers to a syncretized form of cultural Christianity.

Jonathan Campbell

(from The Way of Jesus)

Wise Words for Today

These are the churches I feel most at home in now and in which I see the future – congregations full of liberals and conservatives, old and young, many formerly unchurched but now committed Christians, suburban but involved in their cities, urban who make the city their “parish,” evangelical, mainline Protestant and Catholic, but comfortably ecumenical, full of families and kids, crowds of teenagers in the youth group, traditional and contemporary in worship, intellectual but warm-hearted, successful but humble, Democrats and Republicans who believe God is neither, becoming as colorful as the rich diversity of all God’s children, and most of all, fervently committed to a gospel that is both personal and social and refusing to divide the word of God or the Body of Christ. And they are churches who now want to reach out to their neighbors from all the other faith traditions in their communities and those of no faith at all for projects of “the common good.” It is a future for which I have been hoping and waiting – for a long time.

Jim Wallis

(from The Great Awakening)

A Few Thoughts on This Present Age

Mick Turner

There can be little doubt that we are living in a very important era in the long panorama of earth’s history. Change is taking place at a pace never before imagined, must less witnessed. I firmly believe these changes are a part of God’s plan for the world and, although I don’t know all the ins and outs of that plan, I do know several things:

  • Change is real and happening rapidly.

 

  • Part of God’s plan for this age has to do with deepening our understanding and application of spiritual laws and principles, especially as related to mental laws.

 

  • Unity within the Body of Christ is essential if the next phase of Kingdom Manifestation is to occur. We can only see through a glass darkly, but we can, on faith, understand that God’s establishment of the kingdom is progressive. It is a dynamic process. I have the strong sense, perhaps a revelation if you will, that this issue of unity is key at this time.

 

  • Unity is critical because Satan’s primary weapon has been division within the Body of Christ. “Divide and conquer” has been his strategy and, to a large extent, it has worked and continues to work. Satan uses the saints to “accuse” one another and by doing so, weakens our ability to not only withstand his intrigue, but also, to further advance the kingdom.

 

  • Another aspect of this age will be the erosion of the forms of “church” as we know it and in its place, the establishment of new and more effective structures of faith. This will require much openness and flexibility from within the Church universal, and do not be surprised when you see that the majority of the resistance will come from within the Body.

 

  • The Church is exploding in Asia and Africa. There are many examples of miracles, works, and powers happening in these places and they are genuine. They are not happening so much here because of our rigidity and lack of unity. The West will no longer be the center of the Christian faith and we need to get our minds around that.

 

  • I firmly believe in the old axiom which states “the brighter the light the deeper the shadows,” and as the Master bombards our world with an ever-increasing amount of light, the enemy will be busier than ever. He cannot defeat us, and he cannot even overpower us except by the use of the primary weapon left at his disposal – deception. This age we live in will be witness to an increasing amount of spiritual darkness and demonic activity. This does not mean that more people will be possessed and have heads that twirl around like on a swivel – but more than likely, it will be manifested as an increased amount of demonic oppression resulting in all sorts of negativity. (See section below on Witchcraft and Demonic Oppression).

 

  • Related to the increase in spiritual darkness is the fact that the “power of God” will be increasingly demonstrated through what has traditionally been called “signs and wonders.” This has little to do with charismatic foolishness such as holy drooling and barking like dogs. Instead, it will be akin to what is already being seen in the churches in Asia, Central and South America, and Africa. The miraculous is becoming commonplace in these areas as the church is growing at a rapid pace. God’s supernatural power is being demonstrated and those Christian that cannot acknowledge the supernatural and apply it in their lives will be left behind. This may seem harsh, but it is simply in recognition of what God is doing and how he is currently moving in the world. Just as Paul described to the Corinthian church during his time, God is speaking us today so that we can see that his ways and wisdom are far different from ours.

 And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (I Cor. 2:4-5)

 As these changes take place we will begin to see some areas where God will be moving rapidly and, in these cases, there will inevitably be some stragglers who get left behind. In other areas, God will move more slowly and with great deliberation. In either case, the important thing to grasp is that God is moving and he is doing a new thing. Our task is to develop our sensitivity to what he is doing, pray for wisdom as to what our role and calling might be in his work, and then get busy doing it.

 It is becoming increasingly apparent that the supernatural realm is where the real action is in these days. As a race, especially those of us in the West, we have become so sophisticated that we discount the supernatural without adequate investigation and, by doing so, fall into the enemy’s trap. We must pay closer attention to the supernatural realm because we are involved in a supernatural battle, whether we understand it or accept it.

 It is interesting to note that the fastest growing churches in the world are those of the charismatic/Pentecostal traditions. This is especially true in Asia and Africa, but really, it is a phenomenon that can be seen all over the world. By the same token, it is those denominations that adhere most closely with the use of reason, logic, science, and the legacy of the Enlightenment that are withering on the vine. This is not how I would have predicted things to have worked out and it surely is not how I would have wished it would have worked out. Quite frankly, some of the craziness and downright foolishness seen in the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches is an abomination in my sight. And I suspect that much of the really fringe elements of these movements will disappear as time progresses.

 However, I think the core elements of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement will continue to prosper because God says he must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. And certainly, now more than ever, the supernatural side of things must be taken into account. I am uncertain as to exactly how this will manifest itself here in the West, however. One thing is certain, the church in the West will need more manifestations of God’s power in these rapidly changing times. Yet this revealing of God’s strength must be presented in a manner that is less chaotic and “sensational” than in the past. The days of flopping about, running around the sanctuary, and drooling have passed. It is a time for the world to see God’s power and presence in all its glory, not in  patently bizarre human translations of it that greatly miss the mark.

 As the future unfolds, one of the most needed of the spiritual gifts will be that of discernment. Pastors, teachers, elders, and others in positions of spiritual authority will need to be deeply educated in the criteria of discernment, or at least in recognizing those who have this gift, even in its embryonic forms. Anytime there is a period of increased Holy Spirit activity, and this is without a doubt one of those times, the potential for the Great Deceiver to lead many astray is great. We live in an age that is ripe for deception. Trained, gifted discerners are in critical need. James Goll speaks directly to this issue:

 Lack of discernment and an unscriptural emphasis on experience beyond the confines of Scripture are major stumbling blocks for the majority of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who are open to the supernatural and revelatory realms of God…..When it comes to gifts of miraculous powers and prophecy, we need mature elders in every church who are equipped with the gift of discernment to watch over the flock. We also need apostolic voices who will release guidelines for discernment in the years to come, as the sense of God’s Presence and power increases throughout the world – growing alongside the “tares” of this world, evidenced in soulishly and demonically induced counterfeit expressions of power. Right now, we are sadly equipped with too few apostolic leaders who are respected enough to speak the truth in love about these issues of discernment and correction. And we have too few humble church leaders who are open to correction from apostolic leaders, regardless of their denominational preferences, networks, or alliances.

 Many within the Mainline denominations and Evangelical churches have such a historically “negative charge” with the Charismatic movement that they suspect anything of Spirit-filled nature as being either doctrinally lacking or worse, a product of Satan. This mind-set is not entirely their fault as there has been such excess and, yes, plain wanton foolishness in more than a few Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Yet at the same time, it is not wise to completely slam the door shut.

 At one end of the spectrum you have those sincere followers of the Master who are so turned off by what they see as bizarre extremism that they slam the door shut of Charismatic experience. In a sense, these folks use too much discernment in the sense that anything even remotely resembling “Spirit-filled” experience is discounted out of hand. At the other end of the spectrum you have the fringe elements of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity that fall into all sorts of error, both doctrinal and experiential, and wind up engaging in practices that seem too strange to be true. At this extreme, too little discernment is practiced and, in some cases, none at all.

 Obviously, what is needed is a more balanced approach, grounded in Scripture but, at the same time, not so tightly bound as to quench the Spirit. The real challenge for the church at this point is the development of this much-needed criteria and, after that, widespread training in its fundamental applications.

 Although this particular age is filled with challenges to the Body of Christ, it is at the same time an era of golden opportunity. Despite the negative blathering of naysayers and the sometimes harsh judgments launched by critics of the church, the fact is, these can be times of positive transformation in the Body of Christ. What is needed is consecrated, committed Christians who are creative in approach, flexible in attitude, and open-minded enough to realize that the status quo in a rut we can no longer afford to wallow in. As someone much wiser than me once said:

 A rut is nothing more than a grave with the ends kicked out.

 Think about it.

  © L.D. Turner 2010/All Rights Reserved