Spiritual Complacency and Quiet Desperation (Part One)

Mick Turner

Even a cursory exploration of Scriptures from many faith traditions will reveal that Universal Intelligence, by whatever name we choose to call it, wants us to be successful. It is to no one’s benefit if we allow ourselves to wallow through life in the muck and mire of mediocrity. No, experience reveals that what we here at LifeBrook often refer to as Sacred Light wants us to succeed in achieving our dreams, provided those dreams and desires are in accordance with positive universal principles and spiritual laws. In addition, we live in a universe that is limitless and fill with everything we need in order to lead rewarding, fulfilling, and successful lives

Yes, scriptures from the whole range of faith traditions point to the reality that we are called to lives of success. Here I am not speaking necessarily of financial abundance, the prosperity gospel, or teachings related to money, although success can be manifested in that way. What I am talking about is being a success in the spiritual sense and the best way to do that is to become the absolute best that you can be. God did not create us and give us a mandate to slog our way through a life of mediocrity.

The problem arises, however, when one takes an honest look at what seems to be going on in the daily lives of most people. The vast majority of sincere, earnest, and spiritual people are not particularly happy. Even those that do profess a degree of happiness, when pressed, admit to a vague sense of dissatisfaction with life. Many exist rather than live. Thoreau had it right many years ago when he mused that most people “lead lives of quiet desperation.

What causes such a tragedy?

Obviously, the issues that contribute to such a widespread, complex phenomenon are many. To make our task in this particular writing a bit more manageable, I want to emphasize two problems areas that seem to beset many folks, especially those who consider themselves spiritual individuals. This pair of problematic obstacles to our God-given drive for success consists of: lack of focus and complacency.

I have a confession to make. In my life I have wasted a significant amount of time and energy, running here and speeding there, chasing what I thought was brooks living water but turned out to be a series of dust-filled wells. Putting it in honest terms, I was busy but not effective.

As I look around me now, I can see that I am not the only person who is engaged in these fruitless races. On a near daily basis I encounter sincere people who have convinced themselves they are diligently racing toward a meaningful goal, only to find that like Solomon, they are chasing after the wind. These individuals, like myself, expend time, energy, and other resources in pursuit of self-defined visions that, in the end, are empty and unsatisfying. Others never quite reach the intended goal, but instead, waste valuable efforts chasing their own, self-designed greased pigs.

I vividly recall when this issue came to a head for me. One Sunday morning, as is my habit, I arose early. I spent time asking Sacred Light to speak to me regarding an issue I had been struggling with for some time. As is often the case, my tampering with this problem eventually led me to a state of perplexed paralysis. It was an issue related to how I was to proceed with one aspect of my professional life.

After praying, I sat quietly and gradually began to feel the peace of Sacred Light fall over me. It was nothing earth shattering and no burning bushes spoke to me, nor did any donkeys give utterance, but I had a palatable sense of the Sacred Light’s presence. This is significant in that it had been months since I had felt any sense of light in my life. It seemed that in my busyness, God had somehow gone on sabbatical. I longed for Light’s touch, even if only brief and subtle. I was, in essence, in a stark period of spiritual dryness.

I had several books at my side that I had been reading prior to my prayer time. I opened one of the books and soon came across these words by the French mystic Francois Fenelon:

Be silent and listen to God. Let your heart be in such a state of preparation that His Spirit may impress upon you such virtues that will please Him. Let all within you listen to Him….

Now comes the good part!

Don’t spend your time making plans that are just cobwebs – a breath of wind will come and blow them away. You have withdrawn from God and now you find that God has withdrawn the sense of His presence from you. Return to Him and give Him everything without reservation. There will be no peace otherwise. Let go of all you plans – God will do what He sees best for you.

Fenelon’s words hit me between the eyes like a Louisville Slugger. I knew immediately what I needed to do, even if it was going to be difficult. Like the Old Testament story about Abraham and Sarah, I had grown impatient waiting on God’s timing and gave birth to an Ishmael. I needed to return to God, wait in silence, and trust his promise of an Isaac. Basically, in my own anxiety and uncertainty of potential outcomes, I took charge of the situation and ended up at what seemed a dead end.

Trusting God to guide us and lead us to the place we need to go is not an easy proposition. This is especially true for those of us who are used to “making things happen.” I made the decision that Sunday morning to let the entire project go. I put it in God’s hands and, in his time, not mine, the situation worked out better than I could have ever manipulated on my own.

In practical terms, I discovered how important it was to be patient and wait on God’s benediction before I moved too far down a particular path of endeavor, be it spiritual or otherwise. In short, I learned the value of focus.

Recall for moment the adventure Peter had when he saw Jesus walking toward the disciples’ boat during a raging storm. Noted for his impulsive, impetuous nature, Peter jumped in and, with his attention riveted on Jesus, he, just as his Master, walked on water. Things were going swimmingly (I couldn’t resist that pun) until, for whatever reason, Peter took his focus off Jesus. Perhaps the howling of the wind or the high waves crashing over him distracted the lead disciple for a moment. For reasons really known only to Peter and Jesus, this loss of focus was an unmitigated disaster. Peter began to sink fast.

One of my favorite Christian authors, Erwin Raphael McManus, discusses this very scene from the gospel narrative and relates it to the issue of having a personal focus. McManus goes on to make the following insightful comments:

Part of what costs us the life we were created to live is that we don’t lock in. We lose focus because we become distracted by our circumstances. We get pulled out of the direction we’re supposed to be walking because we start looking in the wrong direction…..It’s so easy to get distracted by all the things going on around you. If you resolve to live the life of your dreams, if you refuse to settle for a life other than the one God created you to live, you’re going to see the waves and the wind. And it’s going to terrify you and you’re going to begin to sink. You have to decide to focus and lock in on the direction God has called you to live your life.

I wish I had been able to read these words from McManus’ excellent book Wide Awake years ago when I was struggling with the issue of focus. Chances are I might well have saved valuable time. Still, by God’s grace, I was able to become more zeroed in on the mission God had for me. It took a major health issue to accomplish this lesson in priorities and being sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Yet once I followed the directions of the Spirit, I was better able to create an environment where the spiritual gifts and talents that lay within me could be manifested, honed, and utilized. McManus speaks to this aspect of focus as well:

Your potential becomes talent only when it is harnessed and developed. Your talents become strengths when they are focused and directed. It is here where you begin to discover who you are and the potential God has placed within you. A destiny is not something waiting for you but something waiting within you.

As we have seen, lack of proper focus can be a major stumbling block when it comes to realizing our potential and making our personal vision a reality. It is, however, not the only obstacle we face.

From consistent observation, I have found that one of the most fundamental problems confronting genuine spiritual seekers in these admittedly challenging times has little to do with external forces and factors. It is easy enough for us to sit back a distance from the “heathen culture” that surrounds us and wag our fingers at a society that by just about all indicators, appears to be heading toward moral and ethical bankruptcy at breakneck speed.

Indeed, it is not a difficult task to define and identify those aspects of the world around us that we find falling far short of the standards set forth by the Bible in general and Jesus in particular. Easy as these options may be, my observations have led me to the inescapable conclusion that our most significant problems as the church universal do not exist “out there.” Our weightiest issues rest within the parameters of our own walls.

We have met the enemy, and it is us.

I don’t mean to be trite or sarcastic here. Instead, with a heart of sincerity and sadness I want to confront at least one of these problems that seem to be draining the Body of Christ of its vitality and its power. I am not speaking of some sinister or deep rooted problem that will take great energy and countless committees to “study and investigate” the issue at hand. I am not talking about some vague, wispy metaphysical or doctrinal dilemma that, like a parasite, is eating away at the very fabric of our faith. I am talking about something far more simple in concept and personal in terms of solution.

I am talking about Christian complacency.

Far too many of our churches are experiencing a decline in vitality due to a creeping, insidious blight that normally goes unnoticed until the congregation is on the cusp of a suffocating death, vainly gasping for even a drop of breath, a touch of the Spirit to restore a chance at life and a rebirth of hope. This metaphor of life and death and breath and spirit may seem a bit dramatic and perhaps it is. It is highly appropriate, however. Many churches are dealing with issues of life and death as a result of decades of settling for maintaining the status quo. Further, the absence of breath and the absence of Spirit are synonymous. Man did not become a living being until God breathed life into him. Even more relevant is the fact that in many languages, the words for breath and spirit are the same.

The implications of this are readily apparent. Where there is no Spirit, there is no life. And where there is no life, there is death and disintegration. What is more tragic is the fact that much of this could have been avoided had it not been for that demon we are speaking of: complacency.

To Be Continued. . . . .

(c) L.D. Turner 2015/All Rights Reserved

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The Necessity of Obedience

Mick Turner

It has taken me a long time to get this basic Christian teaching past my overly active, comfort seeking, rationalizing mind: obedience lies at the very core of the Christian walk of faith. It should be easy enough to see this fundamental reality but the fact is, no matter how many pious platitudes we may utter or how much lip service we may give to the importance of obedience, the church has a major blind spot when it comes to actually following the teachings of the Master.

I don’t know about you, but when I first became seriously aware of what obedience to Christ really entailed, I wanted to run for the nearest exit. It wasn’t so much that I saw the requirements as too restrictive. Instead, my desire to head for the hills flowed out of my honest self-assessment, which screamed: Ain’t no way I can pull this off.

And it was precisely at this juncture that I needed a solid, gifted mentor in Christ who, exuding wisdom, confidence, and agape love, would have informed me that this was the most amazing aspect of the whole gospel package: I didn’t have to pull it off. Christ was going to place a new spirit in me, and, in fact, he was going to take up residence in me and in so doing, he was going to empower me to live as he wanted me to live.

Unfortunately, no such mentor appeared. Instead, I was left with an incomplete understanding of the gospel message and how it applied to my life. Yes, I understood who Jesus was, at least marginally, and I understood that through his death on the cross my sins were forgiven. I had no inkling, however, of how Christ and the Holy Spirit were going to help transform me into new order of being.

Over the years I have come to see that the spiritual quagmire that I found myself in was not unusual. In fact, it seems to be the norm. The church has been woefully inadequate in preaching and teaching the full gospel message. Further, there appears to be a marked shortage of teaching on the role obedience plays in bringing about the godly lifestyle described in scripture. In an attempt to make the Christian life appealing to contemporary Americans, many church leaders, pastors, and teachers (far too many) have jettisoned the message of obedience in favor of a gospel of comfort, convenience, and cash flow. The result has been the creation of a Christian faith that is a superficial replica of what the Master intended.

For countless people who identify themselves as Christians, Christ is seen as their Savior but certainly not as Lord. As stated, this shallow sort of Christianity is not what Jesus intends when he issues the call, “Follow me.” Time and time again, scripture reveals that much of our inheritance as Christians hinges upon our obedience to the teachings laid down to us by the Master. Unfortunately, the whole “grace vs. works” issue has clouded this reality to the point that the vast majority of Protestant believers have little understanding of the necessity of obedience in the Christian walk of faith. If you have any confusion on this issue, I suggest you prayerfully and with reflection spend time with the closing section of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically Matthew 7:21-27.

In his latest book, Follow Me, David Platt takes up the practical implications of what it means to walk the Christian path as a disciple, as opposed to a cultural or non-committed “believer.” Platt makes the point, and I have long said the same thing, that “making a decision” for Christ, or “taking Jesus as your personal savior,” or “inviting Jesus into your heart,” are all woefully inadequate in becoming a true follower of Christ. Only one thing will guarantee that you are indeed an authentic Christian: obedience.

Christ repeats this time and time again, along with his call to repentance and his teachings on the necessity of “taking up one’s cross,” which basically means to die to self. It is apparent, however, that we as a church have found all manner of clever strategies for watering down these teachings or worse, ignoring them completely. Platt laments:

With good intentions and sincere desires to reach as many people as possible for Jesus, we have subtly and deceptively minimized the magnitude of what it means to follow him. We’ve replaced challenging words from Christ with trite phrases in the church. We’ve taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so that it tastes better to the crowds, and the consequences are catastrophic. Multitudes of men and women at this moment think that they are saved from their sins when they are not. Scores of people around the world culturally think that they are Christians when biblically they are not.

Earlier in the book, Platt describes how “belief,” although important and even essential, is far from the whole enchilada when it comes to treading the Christian path. The church has perpetrated a glaring disservice to “converts” by stressing the need for belief without a concomitant commitment to obedience to Christ. After all, scripture openly tells us that even the demons believe (James 2:19). Platt goes on to say:

Clearly, people who claim to believe in Jesus are not assured of eternity in heaven. On the contrary, only those who obey Jesus will enter his Kingdom. As soon as I write that, you may perk up and ask, “David, did you just say that works are involved in our salvation?” In response to that question, I want to be clear: that is not what I am saying…….Instead, it’s what Jesus is saying.

Platt goes on to make the clear point that Jesus is not saying that our works are the basis of our salvation. The Master, and later Paul, makes it quite clear that only grace is the basis of our salvation. I think the point Platt is trying to make, and it is the same point I have made on numerous occasions in this blog, is that the church has put so much emphasis and stress on God’s unmerited grace, that our part in the overall Christian walk of faith has been minimized and, in some cases, completely ignored. The result has been a Christianity that is quite frankly, a shallow farce which lacks transformative power. Worse, it has deceived far too many “believers” into thinking they are authentically Christian when, in fact, they are not. Referring to Jesus words at the end of Matthew 7, Platt continues:

…….in our rush to defend grace, we cannot overlook the obvious in what Jesus is saying here (and in many other places as well): only those who are obedient to the words of Christ will enter the Kingdom of Christ. If our lives do not reflect the fruit of following Jesus, then we are foolish to think that we are actually followers of Jesus in the first place.

Rather than following a knee-jerk reaction to those words, spend some time prayerfully reflecting on what Platt just said, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you just where you stand in relation to this issue. To what extent are you obedient to the teachings of the Master? Granted, no one is perfect, but how consistent are you in putting your faith, as defined by Jesus, into daily practice? Does your life indeed reflect the fruit of following Jesus?

Only you can answer these questions with any degree of honesty. If you ask the Holy Spirit, he will give you the discernment you need to make an honest, self-assessment. I know when I spent time reflecting on these themes, it was a real eye-opener that resulted in one of those life-changing, epiphany-like moments. And I hope it can become the same for you.

© L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Dream Center service at Angelus Temple
Dream Center service at Angelus Temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life is much simpler than we make it.

God’s objective is for you to live an outward-looking life – that is, not worried about yourself, but focused on the needs of others and how you can respond to those needs. When you embrace that mind-set, you are on the precipice of influence and success because that’s a perspective that God will bless. As soon as you start thinking about the needs and burdens of others, and what you can do to alleviate them, or how you can bless and build up others, you begin to establish a new identity for yourself – your true identity.

It doesn’t take a person with unusual training or ability to change the world. All it takes is a heart that cares, a mind that’s determined, a spirit that’s willing, a cause that matters, and a person to help. 

Matthew Barnett

(from The Cause Within You)

Living From Sacred Mind: A Daily Choice

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the ward...
The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in East Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

Each day we have a vital choice before us. It is a choice that is both critical and simple, but above all, it is a divine choice. Each morning before our feet hit the floor, we must ask ourselves: Today, will I live from my Lower Mind or my Sacred Mind?

How we answer this question will have significant consequences and will largely determine the character and quality of our day. Further, our answer to this daily question will have direct impact on whether or not we live in accordance with and in pursuit of our Sacred Calling.

When we talk about our “Sacred Calling” we are talking about our purpose and/or mission in life. From the beginning of your journey, it is vital that you come to understand several key points. First, each person has a universal calling and what we here at LifeBrook term “particular calling.” Your universal calling has to do with God’s universal mission and purpose. There are certain things that each of us are to do and more importantly to be. Our particular calling is just that – particular to us as individuals. It is a personal mission that only you can fulfill and is normally based on your natural talents and proclivities.

An important aspect of your universal calling is “walk in your divinity,” which is another way of saying you need to live each day from your Sacred Mind. Unfortunately, most people are incapable of this without help from the divine order and a significant amount of mindful awareness about what they are doing from one moment to the next. This, in turn, requires work.

Each of us has as a part of our inner world, a Sacred Mind and a Lower Mind. The Sacred Mind is that part of you that is created in the image of God and reflects God’s character, wisdom, and love. When we act from Sacred Mind, we act with reverence, honor, integrity, and grace. The Lower Mind, on the other hand, is that which is often called the “ego,” and it is a useful part of ourselves that most of us have turned into an enemy. We do this by giving the Lower Mind more authority over our lives than it should have. The results are disastrous on personal, collective, social, and global levels. Confronting and dealing with the Lower Mind is an essential component of the spiritual journey and should always be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.

Get one fact planted firmly in your mind right at the beginning of your dealings with the ego: the Lower Mind (ego) is a complete illusion; a fabrication that you created in order to help you deal with the world and, at the same time, develop an identity for yourself. In this sense, the ego has an important service to perform. It helps you understand how the world works and it helps you navigate the world’s sometimes turbulent and treacherous waters. Further, the Lower Mind helps you discern who you are and who you are not. So, in relation to these two important factors, the ego is a great tool to have.

The downside to the ego is the fact that it has a heartbeat of separation, not unity. The ego views all things from a me/them perspective. More often than we would like to admit, this turns into a me versus them mentality. Cooperation, a necessary component of unity, is jettisoned in favor of competition. This leads to many obvious problems based in conflict between one person’s needs and another person’s needs. The ego runs on the premise that there is a limited amount of “stuff” around and this “stuff” is of vast importance. The purpose of life is seen as accumulation of “stuff,” often at the expense of other people getting enough “stuff” to live comfortably. The Lower Mind, however, is not too concerned about this state of affairs. After all, the ego, like all successful egos, understands several fundamental laws:

Always look out for Number One first

It is the fittest who survive and the strongest who thrive

I deserve to have my share of the pie (and maybe even more)

 It’s my way or the highway

If I end up stepping on someone’s toes, they shouldn’t have put them under my feet

Christian writer Donald Miller, in his wonderfully insightful book entitled, Blue Like Jazz, paints a candid, revealing portrait of what life is like under the continuing sway of the ego. Miller describes how, as a child, the awareness of the fundamental flaw in human nature dawned on him:

Still, I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn’t only me. I knew it was everybody. It was like a bacteria or a cancer or a trance. It wasn’t on the skin; it was in the soul. It showed itself in loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression. It had people screwed up bad everywhere you went – at the store, at home, at church; it was ugly and deep. Lots of singers on the radio were singing about it, and cops had jobs because of it. It was if we were broken, I thought, as if we were never supposed to feel these sticky emotions. It was if we were cracked, couldn’t love right, couldn’t feel good things for very long without screwing it all up. We were like gasoline engines running on diesel.

Miller has a way with words, doesn’t he? If you haven’t read Blue Like Jazz, I highly recommend it. In the section containing the above passage, Miller also shares the following confessional poem by C.S. Lewis. I first read these lines by Lewis  early on in my college days, and even though I was thoroughly possessed by the notion that I was intellectually and morally at least two cuts above everybody else, the truth of what this humble, brilliant man was saying penetrated me to the core.

All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.

I never had a selfless thought since I was born.

I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;

I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,

I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;

I talk of love – a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek –

But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

Even now, realizing that I knew little back then and even less now, those last three lines of the first verse body slam me harder than Hulk Hogan. A self-seeking mercenary who never had a selfless thought in his entire life….indeed…

The Lower Mind’s focus on self results in a chronic sense of estrangement. When you are dominated by the ego, a part of you is always wary of others and your true, deep friends are few and far between. More telling, when you are under the sway of the Lower Mind, God usually takes a back seat or worse, is taken completely out of the picture. It is no stretch of fancy when wise people say the ego stands for “ease God out.”

When God is taken out of the picture the person puts ego in the driver’s seat and, although successful for a time, things usually come unraveled. The reason for this is simple. God is our true source of power and enduring success. When separated from our power source, the lights go out. Not only do we become confused and lost, we realize we are alone and don’t have any real answers. What’s worse, we even ask the wrong questions.

Lower Mind’s most consistent question is: What’s in it for me?

What kind of world does all this create? Guns n’ Roses summed it up pretty well with “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Conversely, when we live from Sacred Mind we see things from a much different perspective. Sacred Mind is focused on the whole more than the parts and attempts to create unity rather than division, cooperation rather than competition, encouragement rather than criticism, peace rather than conflict, joy rather than stress, and order rather than chaos.

Remaining connected to God requires living from Sacred Mind and this is not as hard as you might think. Regular spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, meditation, and study of sacred writings help immensely. The important thing is not the method used, but the resulting sense of connection to that universal Spirit that is at the base of all things. You must keep before you your true identity, which is a divine being created in the image of God, designed by God, and loved by God.

Your Sacred Mind is your Inner Light, that part of you that is most like God. No, you are not God and that is vital to understand. However, God did place in you a spark of Spirit that contains everything you need in order to carry out his universal mission and your personal calling. When you connect with and live from Sacred Mind, you have many of the answers that you need in order to become the optimal version of yourself. You don’t have all the answers because only God is all-wise. However, at least now you can ask the right questions.

Sacred Mind’s most consistent question is: How can I help?

 As we travel the path of spiritual formation, it is imperative that we realize one cardinal principle: we must come to understand who and what we are and once we do, we increasingly find ways to live from the perspective of our true identity, rather than the false construct of the ego, or lower self. As stated earlier, Paul referred to these two aspects of our being as “Spirit” and “flesh.” The words are different and perhaps somewhat outmoded, but the divine principle remains the same. The more we live from our true identity as spiritual beings, the more efficient, productive, and harmonious our lives will become.

 © L. Dwight Turner 2009/2013All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Mid-flight
Mid-flight (Photo credit: williamhartz)

No one can force this on you, nor can it be anyone else’s ambition for your life. It has to come from within you. Sometimes it takes a menagerie of different experiences to bring us to it. Some of us will insist on going through tremendous pain, disappointment, and failure before we come to it. Eventually we have to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and decide there’s someone else that we want to see there. But everyone who’s going to make this particular trek has to pass through the same gauntlet that has brought me and so many others to that place where in the deafening silence we hear the cry of our own soul screaming, “I want to change!”

Erwin Raphael McManus

Spiritual Disciplines: New Wineskins for Ancient Wellsprings (Part Two)

English: Tail-piece to Ephesians. Ephesians 3:...
English: Tail-piece to Ephesians. Ephesians 3:14-15. Vignette with rays of light emanating from a Hebrew inscription including the name of God; letterpress in two columns above. 1800. Inscriptions: Lettered below image with production detail: “P J de Loutherbourg del”, “J. Heath direx” and publication line: “Pubd by T. Macklin, Fleet Street”. Print made by James Heath. Dimensions: height: 485 millimetres; width: 395 millimetres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

L.D. Turner

*Continued from Part One…

 In Paul’s remarkable prayer to the Ephesians (3:19) he petitions the Lord that “you may be filled with the fullness of God.” Have you ever really reflected on the magnitude of what the Apostle is saying in these few words? Basically, what Paul is asking God is that the believers in Ephesus become like Jesus. Any close examination of scripture reveals that the goal of our development as disciples of Christ is to become Christ-like; in essence, we are to cultivate Sacred Character.

Later on in Ephesians (4:15) Paul goes on to say, “Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” This statement by Paul should not surprise us. Two verses earlier he flatly that in achieving maturity, we are to attain “the measure of the full stature of Christ.” I don’t know about you, but when I read this statement two things immediately occur within me. First, I am strongly convicted about how far I am from manifesting this kind of maturity in my daily life but, secondly, I am filled with hope that it is at least remotely possible. Paul would have never put it this way, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, unless it was indeed true.

In addition to the church’s general lack of focus on the spiritual disciplines and their strategic necessity in the life of the believer, two other problems seem to complicate the issue and result in either lackluster commitment to practicing the disciplines or, even worse, a general paralysis on the part of Christians when they attempt to make the disciplines a vital part of their walk of faith.

First, even though many churches are now speaking directly to the importance of the spiritual disciplines, it seems that this renewed focus spawns a loud and most often irrational outcry from fundamentalist believers who feel practicing the classical spiritual disciplines is somehow either a “New Age infiltration of the church,” or worse still, “the work of Satan.” This resistance is usually based on the general lack of understanding of what advocates of the spiritual disciplines are trying to accomplish. Writers such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Brian McLaren, and countless others are branded “arch-heretics,” “apostates,” and even “dupes of the enemy.” This is highly unfortunate because nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of leading people away from the truth of the gospel, these authors are, instead, making a compassionate attempt to direct people toward experiencing the very heart of the gospel.

The blather and fear-based banter of these self-appointed doctrinal “watchmen” only serves to confuse sincere Christians even more and many times prevents them from finding the true heart of the gospel message. Even worse, keeps them bound in the chains of a narrow, rigid world view which is devoid of spirituality and arid when it comes to Christian love.

A second problem stems from the fact that the classic spiritual traditions were formulated centuries ago and are often wrapped in language and tone that is quite alien from our 21st Century world. I know from personal experience that studying the Christian mystics of the Middle Ages is a very fruitful endeavor, but can be quite a challenge due to the archaic language used in the texts. What is needed is a reformulation of the disciplines that is both understandable and engaging to the modern reader.

With this thought in mind, here at LifeBrook we have developed a method of exploring the principles that are contained in the classical spiritual traditions that is hopefully more pertinent and practical when it comes to life in the 21st Century. In brief, we teach workshops, seminars, training programs, and e-courses based on the following breakout of the disciplines:

Discipline of Consecration

 Discipline of Connection

 Discipline of Cognition

 Discipline of Contribution

 Discipline of Community

 Discipline of Comprehension

 Discipline of Calling

 Discipline of Cultural Engagement

 Discipline of Cultivation

  Consecration includes: decision, determination, diligence, commitment, perseverance, patience, etc.

 Connection includes: prayer, meditation, contemplation, solitude, nature

 Cognition includes: taking thoughts captive; tearing down strongholds; mindfulness; positive thinking; sacred imagination.

 Contribution includes: sacred service; spiritual gifts; mission; sacrifice, and most importantly, continuing incarnation.

 Community includes: our family and friends; our church; our community; our nature; our world.

 Comprehension includes: sacred study of Scripture and other inspirational writings; understanding of God’s Great Story; realization of where we fit into the “Big Picture,” including the role of the church in the coming years.

 Calling includes: discovery of where we, as individuals, fit into God’s unfolding story in terms of our calling, our mission, and our vision of how to live out our God-ordained destiny.

 Cultural Engagement includes: making ourselves ready to incarnate God’s plan within the context of post-modern, post-Christian culture in general and our own unique cultural setting in particular.

 Cultivation includes: ongoing growth in Christ-character by internalizing a Christian value system and acting in accordance with it; and the development of a Christian worldview, along with the capacity to have our actions consistently flow from said worldview.

  We fully recognize that this methodology does not represent the final word as far as contemporary expression of the spiritual disciplines is concerned. We have found, however, that looking at the spiritual technology of the Christian tradition in this way helps students and seekers understand the disciplines more clearly.

It is my profound hope that an increasing number of churches will come to understand the importance of equipping congregants with practical, time-tested methods for deepening the Christian walk of faith.

© L.D. Turner 2008/2009/2013 All Rights Reserved

The Changing Church and Christ’s Kingdom: Reasons for Optimism

English: Holy Spirit church: Cellingpainting: ...
English: Holy Spirit church: Cellingpainting: Assumption of Christ Locality: Heiligengeistplatz Community:Klagenfurt Deutsch: Heiligengeistkirche: Deckengemälde – Christi Himmelfahrt Ort: Heiligengeistplatz Gemeinde:Klagenfurt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

L.D. 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.

First, I take primary comfort in the fact that Christ did not leave us as orphans. Instead, he returned to his celestial home in order to open to door for the Holy Spirit to come into this world in a manner never seen before. Whereas in the Old Testament (and in the old covenant) the Holy Spirit “came upon” people on occasion, in the New Testament (and under the new covenant) the Spirit would incarnate within each and every disciple. I take great comfort in this and knowing that collectively, the Body of Christ is empowered by the Holy Spirit I cannot imagine failure as the ultimate outcome. The church will succeed in finishing the work begun by Christ. Further, we are assured in scripture that Christ will complete the work begun in us (Phil. 1:6).

Briefly, two other scriptural revelations assure me that, even if there be fits and starts, we have every reason to be optimistic about the ultimate future of the church. First, we have resident within us the same power that raised Christ from the tomb (Phil. 3:10). I cannot imagine any scenario where sincere and committed disciples of Christ could possibly fail in their God-given, God-equipped, and God-empowered mission when operating with the assistance of this power. Second, Christ has assured us that he will always be with us, even until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).

In closing, I would be remiss if I failed to mention perhaps the greatest reason for optimism regarding the future church and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. As the world continues its steady drift away from the teachings and principles of Christ, we can still take comfort in the promises of Jesus. In spite of appearances, setbacks, and obstacles aplenty, the Master has already won the battle. He sums up our primary reason for positive hope when he says, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

© L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved