Resurrecting the Church: Why I Am Optimistic (Part One)

Church of the Holy Spirit in Dúbravka
Church of the Holy Spirit in Dúbravka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

Christ left his heavenly abode and came down to earth in order to accomplish a multi-dimensional mission. His task involved setting in motion in the physical realm God’s plan to restore humankind to spiritual life and right relationship with him, to provide a mechanism whereby we might be cleansed of our sins, teach us the proper way to live in relation to God and to one another, and to pave the way for the advent of the Holy Spirit. In addition, Christ accomplished numerous other themes, some quite subtle and others quite obvious. His primary mission, however, we have yet to mention.

Christ came to this planet first and foremost to inaugurate his kingdom on earth. This is how he kicked off his mission, by admonishing listeners to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Christ indeed made progress toward laying the foundation of his kingdom on earth, but when he left our world and went back to the celestial realms, there was a monumental amount of work left to do. Amazingly, he left us in charge of carrying out that mission. Frank Laubach cogently speaks to this startling fact when he says:

When Christ was here on earth, He was limited to performing His ministry in one place and at one time. He was one man, walking beside one sea in one little corner of the earth. He healed whatever He touched, but His touch was necessarily limited by time and space.

Now, does it make sense that the Father would send His son for this limited ministry? I don’t think that is tenable. He made provision to carry on the work through the Holy Spirit: we are to complete His mission. We are his multiplied hands, His feet, His voice, and compassionate heart. Imperfect and partial to be sure, but His healing Body just the same. And it is through the Holy Spirit (Christ’s love which is everywhere at once),  that we receive the power to carry on the work of the apostles. It is a challenging and sobering thought: when we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, we receive the same urgent and life-giving force that led our Master.

Whenever I sit down and prayerfully reflect on the fact that Christ left us in charge of establishing his kingdom here on the planet, I am amazed and awe-struck. Yet that is exactly what he did. When taking an objective look at the church and all its foibles, it would not be a reach to conclude that maybe the Master, in his exuberance and his love for us, may have over-estimated our talents and capabilities. Even a superficial examination of the problems and petty squabbles that have typified church history, along with the current chaotic state of doctrinal disunity and dwindling membership, points to we have, at least to this point, fallen quite short of where we should be.

In spite of these facts, I am hopeful that the Body of Christ will eventually move forward and make great strides in laying a positive foundation for Christ’s kingdom on earth. In fact, I am more than hopeful, I am downright optimistic! A few weeks ago, as we were discussing these very issues, a good friend was stunned when I told him I was optimistic about the church’s future and that I felt that the prognosis was far more positive than generally  forecasted by the many pessimistic, hand-wringing naysayers who have all but blown Taps on the church in America.

“How can you possibly be optimistic about the church and the kingdom?” said my friend as he almost choked on his fish taco. “Given the fact that so many people are leaving the church and so many churches are closing their doors, I see no grounds for hope, much less optimism.”

In truth, as a firm believer in the integrity of Christ and the teachings of the New Testament, I cannot be anything but optimistic. Although the numbers of this and the statistics of that are anything but positive, I am optimistic because I rest on the promises given to us by God in the Holy Scriptures.

To be continued…

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

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Called and Set Apart (Part One)

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.
Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

If you are a Christian, chances are you might feel a little uncomfortable with the concept of “holiness.” Depending on your denominational background, the issue of holiness may conjure up images of harsh, rigid, puritanical believers who condemn just about any behavior that might bring about an iota of pleasure. For many, the idea of holiness bring to mind images of Puritans dressed in black garb and sporting a countenance that gives the impression that they were baptized in pickle brine as opposed to water. Years ago, someone once described holiness theology as based on the fear that somewhere, someone might be having a little fun. The result of this misplaced zeal was the evolution of a harsh, somber, legalistic brand of Christianity that was the antithesis of what Jesus had in mind.

At the other end of the spectrum, many of the traditional “Mainline” denominations, rather than drifting into the morass of legalism described in the preceding paragraph, became enamored with the process of synthesizing Christian teachings with the latest psychological fad. This blend of religion and psychology offered great promise, especially in the realm of spiritual formation and in many cases, it delivered on these promises. There was, however, a price to be paid. Increasingly, those churches following this line of endeavor saw issues like sin, repentance, and morality as outdated teachings. Over a relatively short period of time, it became a rarity to hear a sermon preached on holiness or related theological relics.

Yet as Christians we are obliged to take the issue of holiness seriously. Throughout scripture it is clear that we are called to live holy lives, based on the reality that our Creator is holy. The term “holy” has traditionally been defined as “pure – set apart.” As we shall see, if we are decidedly obedient to the Master, we will indeed be set apart from the value system of this world.

Research by several groups, including the Barna group and Gallup, reveal that those who identify themselves as Christians, including Evangelical “Born Again” Christians, hold values and views that are not much different than the culture at large. In many ways, this is not surprising when one considers the general “morality drift” that has held sway over the past half-century. The church has been impacted just as much as the so-called “secular world.”

These facts should be a slap in the face to the church, a wakeup call of the first degree. We are called to be “holy,” which means “set apart.” Obedience to biblical teachings should produce a Christian community that is easily recognized as somewhat different than the culture at large. The fact that we are not all that different from the non-Christian culture around us should be a major cause for alarm and much self-reflection on the part of the church. Instead, it has largely gone unnoticed. One can assume, given this state of affairs, that Christians are either not serious about their faith or they, to put it bluntly, are not Christians at all. David Platt, in his recent book Follow Me, pulls no punches when he assesses this phenomenon:

…….I feel like I’m on pretty safe ground in assuming that once people truly come face-to-face with Jesus, the God of the universe in the flesh, and Jesus reaches down into the depths of their hearts, saves their souls from the clutches of sin, and transforms their lives to follow him, they are going to look different. Very different. People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians.

Platt is on safe ground, indeed. As mentioned earlier, study after study reveals that the attitudes and behaviors of those describing themselves as born-again Christians are not all that different from the population at large. If we are to take the words of Jesus seriously, especially his message at the end of Matthew 7 about how everyone who calls him Lord will not be saved or his words a little earlier in the same chapter about the “narrow gate,” then it should be easy to see that something is seriously amiss within the ranks of the Body of Christ. At every turn it appears that Christians today have settled for far less than what Jesus had in mind when he talked about “life more abundantly” (see John 10:10).

to be continued….

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

A Decapitated Church is a Lifeless Corpse (Part Two)

Photo of Christ in Hagia Sofia.
Photo of Christ in Hagia Sofia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

(continued from Part One)

I spent my early years living on my grandparent’s farm in rural North Alabama. I have vivid memories of how good my grandmother’s Southern fried chicken was. I always looked forward to that particular treat being on the menu, often on Sunday after church. I also have memories of either my father or one of my uncles going out into the barnyard and selecting the hen that would be the guest of honor. After seizing the doomed bird, the head would be quickly twisted off, yet that wasn’t quite the end. The chicken, minus the head, would sometimes flap around the barnyard furiously for several minutes before keeling over. As a young boy, I found this fascinating. In some ways, the chicken seemed alive, but dead at the same time.

This chicken story is somewhat analogous to the situation we find in today’s church. Many churches are for all practical purposes, dead. Others appear to have signs of life, but are at the same time dead as well. In the fifteenth chapter of John Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. If we stay connected to the vine, we have life. But if we become disconnected we lose the source of life and we wither on the vine. It is the same for churches. Without a vital connection to the vine, churches wither and die.

Tyler Edwards has written an excellent book that deals with this very subject and I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in breathing life back into the Body of Christ. Entitled, Zombie Church, the book contains detailed descriptions of what a dying church looks like as well as measures that might be taken to bringing a congregation back from the edge of the grave. Describing these Zombie Churches, Edwards states:

The church is supposed to offer the source of eternal life. Some do exactly that. Sadly, others do not. Even in places where the lawn is mowed, the music plays, and meetings are scheduled, life can be absent. Just because things are moving does not mean there is true life. Some churches have hollow motions. Healing is not administered, joy is not experienced, minds are not edified, and people are not changed. One of the best tests to see if a church is truly alive is to ask the question, if the church closed its doors would anyone outside of it even notice.

In the above description, one can see that a church can give the appearance of life when, in fact, it is like the headless chicken flopping around in my grandmother’s barnyard. It is, indeed, a sad but true commentary on the state of many churches today.

Returning to the theme of re-introducing Jesus to the church, by now it should be apparent why this is central to the task of church renewal. I don’t particularly like that term “church renewal,” primarily because I don’t think it accurately describes the depth of what the Body of Christ is in need of. I would prefer to say that what is called for is a “New Reformation,” or to put in other words, “Church Rebirth.”

A cadre of Christian scholars and writers are asserting that we are in the midst of a new Reformation and, along with the apparent decline in membership, attendance, and other negative trends, there is also reason to be positive. Much of the reading I have done over the past few years indicates that the old and worn out wineskins have to be jettisoned before the new, relevant forms of the church can be birthed. Diana Butler Bass, in her recent book Christianity After Religion, describes several authors take on this exciting but challenging age and gives her view on what it all means:

Phyllis Tickle, former religion editor of Publishers Weekly, asserts that the church is undergoing historic transformation, the sort of change that happens only once every five hundred years or so. The esteemed Harvey Cox, recently retired from Harvard Divinity School, claims that Christianity is currently making a break from the “Age of Belief,” a fifteen-hundred-year period of Western Christian dominance. Others, perhaps more modestly, say only that Christianity is moving out of a three-hundred-year cycle that began in the Enlightenment. Whatever the exact chronological schema, the message is mostly the same: We live in a time of momentous historical change that is both exhilarating and frightening. Christianity itself is becoming something different than what it was.

The exact forms and shapes the faith will morph into as the next decade unfolds is difficult to predict, except to say that it will most likely be far different than what it was in the century just past. It is beyond the scope of this essay to delve into the various projections that are being put forth regarding the future of the Body of Christ. One thing is certain, however. It is critical that the new forms remain solidly connected to Christ, the source of life and light. Along with that, the rebirth of the church will depend on how well it reintroduces Jesus Christ to both its members and those beyond.

Returning to the words of Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, let us revisit the importance of giving seekers the information needed to adequately respond to the central question of the day: Who do you say that I am?

There is much more in Christ than we have ever imagined. And there is infinitely more to Him that 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.

For reasons too numerous to enumerate, the church has drifted far from its central task of introducing people to this magnificent, awe-inspiring being we know as Jesus Christ. His true identity and character contain riches beyond description, yet so few of us know him for who and what he truly is. It is only through reconnecting with Christ and reintroducing him to the world that the church can hope to regain the glory, luster, and cultural impact it once knew. Yet before the church can take Christ to the world, it must educate its own ranks in regards to Christ’s true nature and glory. This is where authentic healing can begin and be carried forward. Sweet and Viola continue:

But mark this down: When the people of God get a sighting of their incomparable Lord – and when the world encounters His unfathomable love, irresistible beauty, and overwhelming glory – every idol will be forced to the ground. The clouds of dust 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………..The world awaits those who can present such a rich gospel that it leaves people spellbound, filled with awe, and desperate to know their inimitable Lord.

Church Rebirth begins with giving current members as well as newcomers a clear, in depth picture of just who and what they are dealing with when they encounter Jesus Christ. I am convinced that once a person deeply understands what a truly remarkable being Christ was and is, this knowledge will give rise to an experience of awe, reverence, and gratitude. And from this experience flows a genuine motivation to answer the Master’s call by making an all-out commitment to grow in Christ-character and service to others.

The challenges facing today’s church are numerous and daunting. Yet we must remember that change is often far more positive than it is negative and, at the same time, breathes new life into “zombie churches.” It is through embracing positive change rather than resisting it that church rebirth can come and I am convinced that in the long run, what emerges will become even greater than what has been.

It all begins with meeting Jesus again for the first time.

© L.D. Turner 2012/All Rights Reserved

A Decapitated Church is a Lifeless Corpse (Part One)

Christ icon in Taizé
Christ icon in Taizé (Photo credit: lgambett)

Mick Turner

It has become almost cliché these days to say that the church in America is dying. Whether one arrives at this conclusion through general observation or through the analysis of vital statistics, the result is the same. The Body of Christ in America is withering on the vine. Church leaders and those who make their living by studying the church cite a wide range of reasons for this demise. Likewise, solutions offered to stem the tide of this downward spiral vary widely in terms of both rationale and methodology.

One thing these experts can agree on, however, is this: change is happening and it is happening at a rapid pace.

It is far beyond the scope of this essay to delve into the intricacies of these issues. Instead, I want to focus on one specific theme that I believe accounts in part for the church’s current decline and, if properly corrected, can also be instrumental in forging a new, more vital Body of Christ as the future unfolds. Interestingly, a number of writers from differing theological orientations have also flagged this problem as a contributing factor to the current set of issues bewildering the church. Among these writers are Philip Yancey, Marcus Borg, N.T. Wright, Brian McLaren, Harvey Cox, Phyllis Tickle, and Mark Driscoll, just to name a few.

I also want to mention the recent work of Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola as I believe their writing especially identifies the theme I want to discuss in this essay, namely: the church has lost contact with the very source of its life, its purpose, and its calling.

This vital, life giving source is Jesus Christ.

Near the beginning of their excellent book Jesus Manifesto, Sweet and Viola get down to business in describing what they see as the fundamental cause of the church’s present dilemma:

……….we feel a massive disconnect in the church today, and we believe that the major disease of today’s church is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder. The person of Jesus has become increasingly politically incorrect and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “morality,” values,” and “leadership principles.” The world likes Jesus: they just don’t like the church. But increasingly, the church likes the church, yet it doesn’t like Jesus………..Can our problems really be caused by something so basic and simple as losing sight of Christ? We believe the answer is a resounding Yes. Answers other than Christ to the problems of the church today mean that we are more into solvents than solutions. For that reason, this global, Google world needs a meta-narrative more than ever, and the Jesus Story is the interpreting system of all other systems. In this hour, the testimony that we feel God has called us to bear revolves around the primacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically, we need to decide how we are going to answer one question.

I firmly believe that it is the church’s seeming inability to consistently answer this one question in a way that is simple, pragmatic, and above all, accurate, that lies at the root of many of its current problems. What is this central question raised by Sweet and Viola? It is precisely the one Christ asked his followers a little over 2,000 years ago:

“Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

According to sacred scripture, Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, got the answer right. The church, however, has turned this simple question into a conundrum of colossal proportions. It took the early church at least four centuries to arrive at a fragile consensus. Over time, that consensus eroded into a quagmire of conflicting, confusing answers that could fill entire libraries and, in the process, created much rancor and discord instead of the unity and cooperation called for by Jesus and later, Paul.

Sweet and Viola paint such a dynamic, comprehensive, and inspirational portrait of the nature and being of Christ. Speaking of Paul’s reasons for writing to the Colossians about these themes, the authors state:

The Christ that the Colossians knew was simply too small. That was why they became susceptible to chasing after other things – including religious ones – in the first place.

Sound familiar?

You bet it does! If ever something hit the nail right on the head in terms of my lack of consistent faithfulness, this sums things up pretty well. By not comprehending the truly  awesome and magnificent stature of the pre-existent Christ, I chased after all sorts of lesser entities and stumbled down more than a few dark alleys. Believe me when I say that Alice pales in comparison to me when it comes to jumping down rabbit holes in hot pursuit of magical characters with funny hats and big watches. Sweet and Viola continue:

Paul’s goal was to strip away every distraction that was being held before their eyes and have them with nothing but Christ. He dared to displace all rules, regulations, laws, and everything else that religion offers, with a person – the Lord Jesus Himself. As far as Paul was concerned, God hadn’t sent a Ruler of rules, a Regulator of regulations, a Pontiff of pontifications, or a Principal of the principles. He had sent the very embodiment of divine fullness. So, he reasoned, if the Colossians could just get a glimpse of the glories of Christ, He would be enough. The Spirit would electrify their hearts and restore them to a living relationship with the head of the body. So Paul threw down his trump card – The Lord Jesus Christ. He presented a panoramic vision of Jesus that exhausts the minds of mortal men.

 In other venues, I have written that I believe one of the most critical tasks facing the contemporary church is reintroducing people to Jesus Christ. With the steady exodus from the organized Christian denominations over the past forty or so years, we now have a situation where at least one generation, and maybe two, have been raised in a culture that is, for the most part, non-Christian. In large measure, many of these folks have either an incomplete or utterly confused image of Jesus.

Before the church can even begin to tackle this crucial goal, however, it must accomplish one critical preliminary task. The church has to reintroduce Jesus to itself. The sad truth is the church is every bit as confused about Jesus’ nature and being as those outside the institution. The silver lining in this tragic situation is as follows: once the church really gets a clear, biblical picture of just what manner of being this Jesus Christ truly is, it will set off a spiritual conflagration that will make previous revivals look like brush fires.

Sweet and Viola state that in the first chapter of Colossians Paul was in “full flight.” The Apostle told his readers that if they truly laid hold of Christ’s real identity they would be able to muster a walk of faith worthy of the Master.

In describing the stature of Christ Paul pulls out all the stops:

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 NLT)

After the foregoing section, which is found in a chapter fittingly entitled “A Bottle in the Ocean,” the authors present an incredible description of who Christ was and is. I find this passage so complete and inspirational I am going to share it at length. Describing Jesus Christ, the authors state:

Set your eyes beyond the stratosphere and see a Christ who confounds the mind. This Christ is – present tense – the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ displays God’s image visible in the invisible realm, where He is seated in heavenly places at the Father’s right hand. To look upon the carpenter of Nazareth is to discover God in totality. To know the Nazarene is to know the Almighty, the one true Creator – He who was, is, and is to come.

But that’s not all.

This Christ is the firstborn of the entire cosmos, the first person to appear in creation, and He is preeminent in all of it. All things visible and invisible were created by Him, through Him, to Him, and for Him. He is the Originator as well as the Goal – the Creator as well as the Consummator.

But that’s not all.

This Christ existed before time as the eternal Son. He is above time and outside of time. He is the beginning. In fact, He was before the beginning. He lives in a realm where there are no ticking watches and clocks. Space and time are his servants. He is unfettered by them.

This Christ is not only before all things, but the entire universe is held together in Him. He is the cohesive force, the glue and gravitational pull that holds all created elements together. He is creation’s great adhesive, the hinge upon which the whole cosmos turns. Remove Christ, and the entire universe disintegrates. It comes apart at the seams. Remove Him, and creations wheels come off.

But there’s still more.

This Christ is the very meaning of creation. Eliminate Him, and the universe has no purpose. Remove Him, and every living thing loses its meaning.

But more than all this, the One who created the universe watched it fall. He saw the cosmic revolt in heaven and the wreckage on earth. Under the caring eye of the Father, the Lord looked upon His own creation as it morphed into an enemy – His own enemy. And then he did the unthinkable. He penetrated a fallen world.

This Christ pierced the veil of space-time. He became incarnate and took on human flesh. As such, He was touched with the same temptations, the same infirmities, and the same weaknesses as all mortals, only He never yielded. Christ entered into His own creation to reconcile it back to Himself and to His Father. The Creator became the creature to make peace with an alienated creation.

Sweet and Viola go on to describe the gospel message of the atonement, the resurrection, and how Christ was the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. It is a remarkable passage in a remarkable book. My point in mentioning it here is that it illustrates the vital need the church has in this challenging age. Put simply: the true and real Christ, stripped of the myriad accretions with which he has been covered over the centuries; the true and real Christ, revealed in all his magnificence, splendor, and glory – must be reintroduced to the church.

Ironically enough, for many sincere believers this may well be the first time they actually meet the real Christ.

You see my friends, for far too long now the church has been cut off from its source. In a real sense, the Body of Christ has been decapitated. If Christ is the head, it stands to reason that the church cannot survive long without being attached to the Master. Unfortunately, for quite a long time now the church, with some exceptions, has gradually been drifting farther and farther away from that which gives it meaning, direction, and most of all, life.

To be continued…..

(c) L.D. Turner 2012/ All Rights Reserved

The Unfolding of Sacred Potential (Part Two – Revised and Expanded)

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...
Image via Wikipedia

Mick Turner

* Continued from Part One

Contrary to popular belief, living a life committed to Christian excellence is far from a tedious, joyless affair. When Christ calls us, he does not call us to a life of drudgery and boredom; he does not lead us into a life characterized by a restrictive morality and a scowling face. Christ’s call and claim on our life is a challenge to our limited ways of being in the world. When the Lord whispers in a person’s ear, saying, “Follow me,” he is issuing an invitation to an exciting journey of exploration and spiritual discovery. Erwin Raphael McManus, noted author and pastor of Mosaic in Los Angeles, tells us:

 

“Jesus calls us to a life of unimaginable adventure. It begins the moment we choose to follow Him. It is no less than to pass from existence to life. Though we are not taken out of time and space, we are translated into an entirely different dimension of living. Jesus tells us that He is the portal into this life and the quest that follows. Jesus describes Himself as a door, a gate, a portal. In other words, an escape hatch. He has come to lead us out of the mundane and into the extraordinary. Strangely enough we find it hard to trust Him, while all the time he has been trying to lead us out of the dark dungeons we have created for ourselves and let us run free in the light of day. When we come to Him, he translates us into an entirely new realm of living. His promise is that in Him we will find the life that our hearts have always longed for.”

The process of realizing the potential God placed in us is individual in nature. One person may see his or her potential unfolded in one way while someone else may have a different experience altogether. Still, there are several truths that hold firm for each of us as we journey forward with the Holy Spirit. Let’s discuss three of them: the need for discipline; the need for persistence; and the trap of complacency.

Discipline is not a popular word in post-modern culture. Instead, we are encouraged to “follow our bliss” and “do our own thing.” The world pays lip service to the importance of discipline and self-control in daily living, but the over-arching message is in actuality much different. Often, instead of encouraging individuals to delay gratification, defer rewards, and develop character, our culture tells us, “If it feels good, do it.” No one ever manifested divine potential by adhering to this advice.

Scripture repeatedly stresses the importance of discipline, self-control, and personal morality. Without personal discipline, we squander our energies, waste precious time, and lose direction and focus. If we want to become the persons God intended us to be, we have to be disciplined individuals governed by an internalized biblical value system.

As we move forward in this sacred journey of spiritual development, we will experience periods of accelerated growth as well as times when it seems we are advancing at a snail’s pace. This unpredictable pace of spiritual formation is to be expected. There will be times of elation and excitement a you realize the positive changes God’s Spirit has brought about in you life. At other times, you will experience something quite different as you struggle with a particular habit, sin, or negative personality trait. This can be a critical juncture in your growth process. It is easy to become discouraged when change does not come at the pace we would prefer. However, the important point to remember is: “Don’t quit.”

There is an old saying: “Never rest on your laurels.” Basically, this means that we should never be satisfied with what we have accomplished. Reaching a goal is satisfying, but we shouldn’t allow this to be the final act in the play. We must continually press forward toward new goals that will allow us to manifest the best version of ourselves. Also, it is important to keep in mind that we should never focus our mental energy on what it is we think we cannot do. Rather, we should believe in ourselves and always refuse to let what we cannot do interfere with what we can do. By focusing on doing what we can do, and doing it better, we make progress. Moreover, we facilitate our continuing spiritual development by challenging ourselves to reach higher. Both personal experience and deep study has taught me that the optimal method for moving beyond where we are is by “stretching ourselves.” By this I mean it is highly advantageous for us if we encourage ourselves to move beyond what we are now capable of, even if only to a small degree.

For example, I enjoy playing table tennis. I am far from a great player, but I can achieve some degree of success when I am at the top of my game. (Of course, I played much better when I was younger and my reflexes were quicker.) Early on, I discovered I could not improve my play by competing against players who I could easily defeat. By the same token, I could not get any better by playing against opponents who were my equal. If I wanted to improve, I had to play against competitors who were more skillful than I was. I soon discovered that if I took on players whose skills were slightly above mine, my play gradually but consistently improved.

The same is true in terms of realizing our potential in any endeavor. If we want to improve at something, we have to challenge ourselves; we have to stretch ourselves to get to the next level.

Dr. Myles Munroe, the highly respected pastor and Bible teacher mentioned earlier, begins one of his books on divine potential by observing that the richest place on earth is not the vault of a large bank or even Fort Knox. Instead, Dr. Munroe points out, the world’s greatest wealth is often found in the cemetery. It is here, in the graveyard, where many dreams lie buried – dreams that were never realized, missions that were never accomplished, and potential that was never realized.

As I reflect upon the tragic reality of Dr. Munroe’s observations about the wealth lying beneath the grave stones, I ponder another possible tragedy, equally distressing. I wonder how many people are going about their daily rounds, oblivious to the potential placed inside them by the Creator. How many of us will squander this precious life that we have without realizing and manifesting their God-given potential? How many will have their potential buried with them? I, for one, have made a covenant commitment with God not to allow this to happen to me.

 How about you?

to be continued…..

(c) L.D. Turner 2012/ All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Dallas Willard giving a Ministry in Contempora...
Image via Wikipedia

…..the Spirit of God now calls his people to live from an adequate basis for character transformation, resulting in obedience to and abundance in Christ. This really is something different. The present moment is not an occasion to keep on doing the same things Christians have been doing in the recent past – except now “really meaning it.” It is time to change our focus, individually and in our Christian groupings.

If we as Christ’s people genuinely enter Christ’s way of the Heart, individuals will find a sure path toward becoming the persons they were meant to be: thoroughly good and godly persons, yet purged of arrogance, insensitivity, and self-sufficiency. Christian assemblies will become what they have been in many periods of the past and what the world desperately calls for today: incomparable schools of life…  

Dallas Willard

(from Renovation of the Heart)

Wise Words for Today

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...
Image via Wikipedia

If we do not stop traveling down the road we are on, we will not just destroy the planet and everyone on it but continue to betray the heart of Christianity. Our task now is not just to demythologize Jesus. It is to let the breath of the Galilean sage fall on the neck of the church again. First we have to listen not to formulas of salvation but to a gospel that is all but forgotten. After centuries of being told that “Jesus saves,” the time has come to save Jesus from the church.

If the door is locked, we will break in through the windows. If anyone forbids us to approach the table, we will overturn it and serve communion on the floor. If any priest tells us we cannot sing this new song, we will sing it louder, invite others to sing it with us, and raise our voices in unison across all the boundaries of human contrivance – until this joyful chorus is heard in every corner of the world, and the church itself is raised from the dead.

Robin Meyers

(From:  Saving Jesus from the Church)