Releasing your potential requires a willingness to move beyond the familiar into the realm of possibilities. . . . .If you attempt new things and make choices that stretch your horizons, you will embark on an exciting journey. You will begin to see the marvelous being God created you to be – a being filled with more capabilities than you ever dreamed possible. The journey begins when you gain an understanding of what potential is and how you can release it. For once you understand the magnitude of the wealth God gave you, to turn from consciously and conscientiously unwrapping God’s gift is to abort your potential and refuse to fulfill the purpose for which He gave you life. The knowledge of what you have failed to use to benefit yourself, your contemporaries, and the generations to follow will judge you on the great day of accountability. Potential is given to be released, not wasted.
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.
By faith, call those things that are divine truth in the spiritual realm into being in the natural realm. It is not a magic formula or wishful thinking. It is operating within the laws of God’s Word……………Do not use your words to confirm or mold negative situations in your life. Use your words and God’s Word to change those situations. Jesus confirmed the power of the spoken word in John 6:63: “Every word I’ve spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making.” (Message)………Spirit-words – God’s words coming out of your mouth because they are in your heart – are life-making…..God’s Word out of your mouth is filled with the same power it had coming out of His mouth. God’s Word never goes out without producing an effect. It is never powerless (see Isaiah 55:11). When you speak His Word, His power is behind it. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .And do not fall for the devil’s lie that it is too late for you. If you are alive and still talking, it is not too late! Use your voice to cry out and prepare the way God says is yours, and watch Him release the full force of his favor toward you as you walk out, and speak out, His Word.
Although many things in the modern world conspire to deafen us to the subtle voice of the Father, rest assured that his voice is indeed there. God calls to us continually, asking us to put down our nets and, like the fishermen disciples of old, come and follow. Jesus tells us in John 6:44 that no one comes to him unless the Father first draws him. What this means in highly practical terms is that we not only have a God, we have a proactive God that seeks relationship with us. Our end of the bargain is to put ourselves into a position of deepening receptivity, so that we might hear his voice more clearly and experience his love more intensely.
There are others who hear God’s voice and respond, accepting his offer of grace, forgiveness, and acceptance into his blessed family. These are generally sincere disciples and are often quite active in their local church fellowship. They also involve themselves in service work and serve the Master to the best of their ability. Yet it is these very people – these sincere followers of the Lord – who, in their heart of hearts, often find themselves asking, “Isn’t there something more to the Christian life? I feel like something is missing. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is a vague emptiness…”
It is to these genuine disciples that the still, small voice comes beckoning in the silence of a sleepless night, or drifting in on the golden leaves of an autumn wind. That irresistible, persistent voice that repeatedly whispers:
Come, follow me….
John Eldredge and the late Brent Curtis, in their book entitled The Sacred Romance, describe the various ways, both vivid and subtle, that the Divine calls to us in his relentless pursuit of relationship:
Someone or something has romanced us from the beginning with creek-side singers and pastel sunsets, with the austere majesty of snowcapped mountains and the poignant flames of autumn colors telling us of something – or someone – leaving, with a promise to return. These things can, in an unguarded moment, bring us to our knees with longing for this something or someone who is lost; someone or something only our heart recognizes.
When we find ourselves in earshot of such a calling, we need to recognize that we are both blessed and vulnerable. We are blessed in that the divine source, the creative power that put this awe-inspiring universe together, seeks relationship with us. The incomprehensible intelligence that maintains all that we see and even more remarkably, the mysterious quantum realm that we don’t see, together in harmonious balance desires intimacy with us – intimacy beyond anything we have ever known.
Yes, friend, God calls to us in a gentle voice that only the mystic can truly hear. And in that persistent calling, the Creator invites us to join in the mysterious dance of spiritual transformation. Unfortunately, far too few of us truly comprehend the critical importance of this divine calling, which often rides in softly on the fragrant breeze of an early summer evening or conversely, in the absolute silence of moonlit midnight in the depth of January. Of those who do hear the sublime calling, even fewer respond and this a tragedy beyond measure, as it often leaves those desperate souls with an incessant pondering of what might have been. C.S. Lewis speaks of this holy pursuit and its profound significance:
Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of – something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say, “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.
Lewis is describing that universal “something,” that existential empty spot that Augustine said could only be filled by God. It is, indeed, the call of the sublime lover, the Creator himself, beckoning us to turn and face our true home. It is the baying call of the Hound of Heaven, which is paradoxically both a blessing and an irritant.
Most amazingly, he is not calling us to go into a monastic hideaway or a hermit’s cave, but to stay put right where we are. And if we stay and we become open and discerning, he will use the mundane events of our daily round as his methodology of instruction. More often than not, God’s classroom is characterized by the pedagogy of the ordinary and it is precisely in the realm of the unremarkable that true divine alchemy occurs. Sue Monk Kidd, a woman who knows this process through personal experience, describes it this way:
It seems to me that Christ continually calls us through the daily events of our lives…In moments like these God stirs the waters of our lives and beckons us beyond where we are to a new dimension of closeness with Him…God desires to transform certain experiences of ours into awakening events. These may be our most common moments, but if we let them they can become doorways to a deeper encounter with Him. Who knows at what moment we may begin to wake up to the astonishing fact that Emmanuel (God with us) is still God’s name, that every moment the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is coming to us.
I know that in my experience, God calls me in ways I never expected. I have discerned his voice in the sacred silence of meditative stillness and his message has often slapped me to my senses as it spoke from the pages of Holy Scripture. I have also learned to be increasingly sensitive to his call as manifest in the choreographic harmony of the natural world and especially when it dances in the eyes of a child.
God has already moved and blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Everything we’ll ever need – joy, peace, wisdom, revelation knowledge, etc. – has already been provided. But it’s all in the spirit realm….If you can’t understand that everything God has already provided for you is in the spirit realm, then you’ll lose this truth I am communicating. Why? Faith acts like a bridge to bring what is true and real in the spiritual world into the physical world. The truth is, very few believers allow their faith to be that bridge for what God has already done to cross over into the natural realm. We just don’t see very much manifestation of it.
Lord, we affirm and accept our status as a new creations in Christ and we thank you for making us a joint heirs with your Son, Jesus Christ. We proclaim and also affirm that we are among the chosen, the fortunate ones you have selected as your holy and beloved.
Father, we thank you for piercing the darkness and searching for us and we especially thank you for your patient endurance in pursuing us, especially when we were fleeing and hiding from your Light.
We are eternally grateful Father that you were steadfast in your love for us and that you found us, embraced us, and carried us out of this dark kingdom. We awakened in the brilliance of the One True Light which fills your glorious kingdom – indeed Lord, the New Canaan, the realm of your sinless Son who you loved even before the world began.
Dear Lord, we know in our minds and in our hearts, and we affirm with our tongues and lips that you are the perfect, visible image of the invisible God and that when we look upon you, we behold the fullness and totality of God. We realize and affirm that to know you Lord Jesus, is to know the Almighty, the one true Creator – He who was, is, and is to come.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the firstborn of the entire cosmos, the first person to appear in creation and that you are preeminent in all of it. All things visible and invisible were created by you, through you, and for you. You are the Originator and the Goal – the Creator as well as the Consummator – the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end.
Lord Jesus Christ, you existed before time began as the eternal Son and you were before all things. The entire universe is held together in you and you are the cohesive force – the gravitational power that holds all created elements, seen and unseen, together. Without you, the entire universe would disintegrate.
It is you Dear Lord, the One True Light – Adonai – that gives meaning to all creation and all of life. Without you, there is no purpose, either universal or personal, for it is you Lord Jesus that rose higher than the highest heaven, filling all things with your presence and your purpose. You are indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Light –
We thank you for adopting us into your Family of Light and we commit our lives and our ways to you, your care, and your blessed Kingdom.
For decades the church opted for “membership” over “discipleship” and the fruit of that choice has come back to haunt the Body of Christ. The result is a large number of Christians who are quite shallow and inconsistent when it comes to understanding and implementing the faith they profess. While this creates a cadre of Christians who are lacking depth and discernment in their walk of faith, it also has a domino effect. It is impossible to live as Jesus lived and do as Jesus did without a firm, committed, and consecrated method of Christian practice, especially of the classic spiritual disciplines. Lacking such a practice, these folks wind up giving a poor witness for the faith and as a result, often drive people away from the Master rather than attracting.
It is for these reasons that we must come to have a highly practical and personally applicable definition of just what a disciple is if we want to become the optimal version of who we are, for the glory of God and the sake of others. Margaret Campbell gives us this cogent definition of “disciple” and/or “discipleship.”
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 the church is to have any hope of rectifying the situation described above it must passionately embrace the renewed practice of spiritual disciplines within a context of ongoing spiritual formation.
Dallas Willard, speaking at the inaugural Pastors Conference in 2001, gave this cogent description of spiritual formation:
Spiritual formation is shaping the inner person in such a way that the words and deeds of Christ naturally flow from us. It is the inward transformation of the self that makes it easy and natural to do the things that Jesus said. Christian spiritual formation is the process. What we call spiritual formation in Christian circles now, is really spiritual transformation. Formation has already happened and that is a major part of the problem. We have already been formed spiritually and we need to be transformed. It is holistic; it applies to all of us. It is not just a matter of changing the center part. It is a matter of the transformation of self so that now your body is going to be set to do righteousness, as previously it was set to do what was wrong.
Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that have in a very real sense been “spiritually formed.” For example, let’s recall the words of Peter:
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share in his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (2 Peter 1: 1-4 NLT).
Each time I read these words of the apostle Peter I am moved to a place of stunned silence. If this is one of those passage of scripture that you have often read, but just quickly glossed over the words then you have done yourself a great disservice. Go back and carefully and prayerfully read over these four verses, soaking in the incredible message they contain. God has already provided everything we need in order to live the kind of life Jesus calls us to live. Along these same lines, Paul tells us that the Father has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” (Eph. 1: 3). As Dallas Willard told us in the quotation cited above, we have already been formed. It is now up to us to become transformed.
I firmly believe that we are transformed by bringing down these spiritual blessings, these incomparable gifts of the Father, from the spiritual realm into the concrete and clay of our daily living. We do this first and foremost by accepting these gifts on faith. Just as we were restored to right standing with God by faith, we also appropriate the gifts he has already given us by faith. Second, we make these spiritual blessings, including the day-to-day ability to lead the Christian life as defined by Jesus, by making ourselves receptive. We do this through the committed practice of the classic spiritual disciplines of the Christian faith. Third, we follow Christ by abiding and we do this by immersing ourselves in his teachings and especially by living in obedience to those teachings. And finally, we make ourselves receptive by emulating Christ in walking the path of selfless service to others – in ways both great and small with take up our towel and basin and find some feet to wash.