Wise Words for Today

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.

Dr. Myles Munroe

(from Releasing Your Potential)

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Birthing The 21st Century Church: A Wilderness Journey

English: Sterzing, Holy Spirit church frescos,...
English: Sterzing, Holy Spirit church frescos, on the northern wall, representing the infancy of Christ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

L.D. Turner

To say that the Body of Christ is undergoing major changes may rank right up there with the greatest understatements of all time. Whether we are talking about the local church or the global church, we can easily see that old structures are crumbling and new forms are gradually taking shape. Some of these forms are positive and may well be of a lasting nature while others are less attractive and hopefully fleeting.

As someone who cares deeply for the kingdom message of Jesus, I am well aware that the church’s primary mission consists of doing all that we can to establish that kingdom on earth. And I will admit that there are times that I become frustrated, discouraged, and anxious when I see little progress being made or witness the church getting bogged down in petty conflicts that accomplish little other than bring a grin to the enemy’s face. In far too many instances I am convinced that we, as the church universal, have drifted away from this central aspect of our mission and our calling.

As I was prayerfully reflecting upon the future of the church on my morning prayer walk recently, I found the Spirit nudging my mind to the story of the Israelites as told in Exodus. In their meandering journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites repeatedly lost faith, took wrong turns, complained loudly, and, on one occasion, went so far as to create a golden cow to worship. Yet in spite of their lack of faithfulness, their infidelity, and their disobedience, God never abandoned them. He came into their midst as a cloud by day and a fire by night and in doing so, led them across the Jordan and into the land where he intended for them to dwell.

Reflecting on these familiar themes, the Holy Spirit led me to see that is so many ways, the church is in a similar situation as the ancient Israelites. As the Body of Christ wanders through this present sea of change, it is easy to lose our direction, to have our faith falter, to bicker, complain, and lose our trust in God. Yet like he did with the Hebrew people, God is with us and will lead us into the “Promised Land” of a renewed and revitalized church. We cannot yet know what form that church will take but if we continue to walk forward and trust the Father, he will guide us every step of the way. Although we may not be able to clearly see the ultimate outcome of this transition process, we can trust God to reveal the next step with encouraging clarity.

I took much comfort from that revelation from the Holy Spirit that morning and I continue to derive an optimistic outlook from what I learned on that particular prayer walk. Just as the Hebrew nation was God’s chosen people in those centuries before Christ, the church now has that blessed identity and it is incumbent upon us to trust that the Father will complete the great work that he has begun with us.

It may be, however, that the various forms the church takes and the methods it uses may be far beyond the pale of what we expect. With that fact in mind I strongly encourage each and every one of you to have an open mind and a flexible attitude as God’s “new work” unfolds.

Patricia King, in the introduction to her book Spiritual Revolution, speaks with both insight and clarity as she describes the revolutionary changes taking place in the Body of Christ and the importance of having a positive attitude toward this transitional process:

We must be willing to lay everything on the altar, including our opinions, our programs, and our old structures. We must be willing to follow Him with passion and devotion as the revolution unfolds. This emerging revolution will manifest God’s goodness, power, glory, supernatural signs, wonders, and miracles. The revolution will transition a powerless church into a light-radiating Body of His presence, full of pulsating heavenly presence and power. The revolution will call us to walk like Jesus did in the Gospels and the apostles did in the Book of Acts. The revolution will call for people clothed with heavenly power and godly character.

Of course, not everyone will be open to the coming changes and resistance will be strong. King continues:

As in past historical moves of revolution, there will be those who resist and harden their heart, desiring to hold on to the old ways and mind-sets. Change is often difficult because it forces people to rethink hardened opinions and be willing to remove ourselves from the rut of our comfortable lifestyles. However, in spite of those who resist the revolution, there will be those who embrace it, jumping on board and following Jesus into new and uncharted territory. Some things that God will manifest in these coming days have never been done before, things that will stretch our imagination and challenge our intellect.

For many of us, change is very difficult. This is especially true with behaviors and beliefs that are deeply ingrained or held with great affection. The following story from my own experience, although not related to a deeply held belief, does illustrate clearly the dangers of stubbornly holding on to something that has outworn its usefulness.

From the time I was five years old I have been an avid baseball fan. I played the sport throughout my school years and, once I became an adult, played competitive softball for many years.

I normally played middle infield, either second base or shortstop. For many years I used the same softball glove. In fact, I used it so long that the strings kept breaking, all the padding was gone out of the pocket and the leather was cracked in several strategic places. Nevertheless I refused to buy a new glove, in spite of the frequent protestations of my teammates.

The reason was simple. I was comfortable with this old glove. It molded to my hand perfectly over the years and it felt reassuring to put in on before I took the field. All too often, however, I would catch a hard line drive right in the pocket and my hand would sting, then remain numb for several minutes. Still, I wanted no part of a new glove.

A new glove, as anyone who has played the sport knows, is a real pain for awhile. It feels funny, awkward and stiff. It is easy to make errors with a new glove, at least until it is broken in properly. No, my old glove was fine thank you very much.

One day our third baseman wasn’t able to make the game and I played the so-called “hot corner.” Things went okay for the first two innings. Then, in the third inning the batter hit a hard liner right at me. I responded quickly and raised my glove, only to have the ball break right through the ancient webbing and hit me square in the forehead, knocking me out cold.

Two days later I bought a new glove.

My experience with my old softball glove is not unlike my experience with the behaviors that flow from my old self. No matter how much I try to take off the old and put on the new, the old keeps rearing its head and biting me. I suspect that I am not alone in this predicament.

Many of my old behaviors and especially old, erroneous and limiting mind-sets, like my old softball glove, may hurt me time and time again. But, they are comfortable in the sense that they are familiar and predictable. My old self resists change and it is here that we are vulnerable to our habitual responses to life, however unhealthy and painful they may be. The great work that God is doing in renewing and rebirthing the church will require that we turn loose of some of our most cherished ideas and ways of doing things in order to allow the refreshed and revitalized church to take root.

As committed followers of Christ we must consistently face reality as it is. And the fact is, the church is in deep trouble and unless we make a significant course change, we could easily find ourselves on the verge of extinction. In fact, many denominations are already on the endangered species list. We can no longer afford to linger in denial of these realities, as harsh as they are. One lesson we can take from the mass exodus from our sanctuaries is simply this: business as usual is no longer an option.

The church presently finds itself in a situation where it must not only consider possible change, it must instead embrace change. As mentioned earlier, there will always be those that resist change. They dig in their heels, set their jaws, and grind their teeth until their faces take on a fossilized scowl. Yet change is not only essential to the church’s survival, it is also an opportunity for the church to renew itself and remain relevant to the world it is called to serve and save. Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell, in their book Permission Granted to do Church Differently in the 21st Century, speak to the nuts and bolts of the process of change:

Every change involves a letting go of one thing to reach out to what is next. It is death by installments – the slow death of our mind-sets, our attitudes, perceptions, and paradigms with nothing obvious to take their place. That is, we see only the replacement concept as we journey. We don’t just see it, though; we experience it. Sometimes our experience is first, and we go through something that we understand only in retrospect. It is important, therefore, if we are to journey with the Lord into new lands, that we build in time to reflect and review where we are and where we have come from. Our road map of faith must be kept up-to-date and relevant for anyone coming after us.

Paradoxically, the dwindling numbers in our churches has taken place during a time of intense spiritual hunger in our culture. America has become a veritable spiritual smorgasbord with both traditional and non-traditional religions and spiritual systems to choose from. Increasingly, people are approaching their spiritual needs in cafeteria style, taking a little from here, a smattering from, a touch of this, and a dollop of that. I have one good friend, for example, who describes himself as a Shamanic Episcopagan.

The church, for the most part, has failed to recognize and respond to this spiritual appetite that has been escalating in this country since the early 1960s. When confronted with questioning but sincere spiritual seekers outside the norm of what they were comfortable with, far too many churches circled the wagons rather than reaching out to these spiritual vagabonds. In so doing, organized Christianity wasted a golden opportunity and suffered a loss of sociological relevance in the process.

Equally tragic is the fact that the church has also failed to recognize and respond to the spiritual hunger within its own ranks. Granted, there are a number of churches that are vibrant, alive, and truly are disciple-making entities driven by Jesus’ kingdom calling. I am aware, however, that a greater number of churches have greatly missed the mark in this regard, choosing instead to offer up a palatable, non-threatening form of Christianity that makes true discipleship optional. This approach to organized Christianity is dying under the weight of its own lethargy exclusivity. It is my firm, faith-based conviction that God will replace this dying brand of Christianity with another form of the faith that will satisfy the spiritual hunger of those genuine seekers within its membership and outside its ranks as well. Patricia King elaborates on the spiritual revolution mentioned earlier:

In the coming spiritual revolution, a spiritual hunger will surface like never before. You will see hunger for the supernatural and for the raw power of God. Young people especially will search for deeper meaning to life. They are not looking for a church service to attend or for a club to join. They are searching for spiritual realities that transcend religious traditions. They are looking for models that can be applied to their lives. They are looking for what is truly real and for what is eternal. They are weary of simply hearing the words preached. They want demonstration.

The spiritual revolution described by Patricia King is not coming at some future date; it is already upon us and is progressing at lightning speed. And it is not only the young who are seeking deeper answers. As great numbers of Baby Boomers move into their retirement years, they suddenly find themselves confronted with their mortality and are increasingly seeking deeper answers in their quest for meaning and purpose in their golden years.

Rather than burying our heads in the sand, the church can instead view these new realities as both challenges and opportunities. With the Holy Spirit leading the way, serving as our guide and our comforter, we are in better circumstances than the ancient Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. In addition to the Father serving as our cloud by day and our fire by night, we have the power of the Spirit residing within us, equipping us to face the challenges ahead and to succeed in giving birth to new wineskins for the gospel message and new forms for the church assume.

We can trust God to complete the work he has begun and we can trust his integrity when he says that he will always be with us, even until the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20). If that is not enough to give us positive encouragement, we can also consider the reality that residing within us is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. If that power can give us the empty tomb on Easter morning, surely it can resurrect the Body of Christ in this critical age.

Think about it.

© L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved

 

Signs, Wonders, and the Supernatural

English: Inside Hillsong Church, Sydney
English: Inside Hillsong Church, Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the supernatural realm is where the real action is in these days. As a race, especially those of us in the West, we have become so sophisticated that we discount the supernatural without adequate investigation and, by doing so, fall into the enemy’s trap. We must pay closer attention to the supernatural realm because we are involved in a supernatural battle, whether or not we understand it or accept it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The contemporary church has a critical need for a more balanced approach to and criteria for accurate discernment of supernatural phenomena, grounded in Scripture but not so tightly bound as to handcuff the Spirit. The real challenge for the church at this point is the development of this much-needed criteria and, after that, widespread training in its fundamental applications. Understandably, this development remains a work in progress.

© L.D. Turner 2013/ All Rights Reserved

Live Your Potential and Walk in Your Calling

The life of Jesus of Nazareth plate 47.
The life of Jesus of Nazareth plate 47. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

(originally published in 2008, this article is as pertinent now as it was then. It is moved forward from the archives after numerous requests).

It is vital that every person understand that we are responsible for developing the potential stored within us. We must deepen our contact with our divine potential, which I (and our Quaker friends) call our “Inner Light,” and do all that we can to nurture, feed, and actualize our true, God-given potential. Further, we must recognize that as we move forward in developing our optimal potential, we can never afford to stop. In essence, when we travel the Christian journey, we are either moving forward or backward. There is truly no place to stand on the spiritual path.

Spiritual growth is a complex subject and we could waste much time and space exploring the more arcane aspects of personal unfolding. However, I choose instead to try to keep things as simple as feasible, especially in the context of a short article. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a topic that seems to cause many sincere Christians to go off the tracks and race down many enticing but unproductive rabbit holes. I am talking here about the subject of “purpose.” The issue of purpose is intimately connected with potential and it is often difficult to talk about one without delving into the other.

Many of us are so obsessed with “finding our purpose” that we ignore more important aspects of the spiritual journey. Granted, the universe seems to be arranged in such a way that each of us came to this planet with a unique mission. In spite of this, however, all of us share components of a more generalized, universal purpose. In my own journey, I have come to define a central aspect of this universal purpose as follows:

“I must become the optimal version of myself for the glory of God and the sake of others.”

“Well, I can’t argue with that,” you might say. “But how do I pull it off?”

Good question. Space does not permit a detailed explanation of the complete methodology of becoming the best version of yourself and, besides, I believe that each of us must find our own personal way of unfolding our divine nature. Still, I think we can look at two practical things we can do: define and visualize.

Begin by spending time developing a definition of the best version of yourself. What qualities will your highest self possess? What kind of activities will be a central part of your life and your spiritual development? How will you earn your living? And most significantly, how will you be of service to others? Pray for wisdom, personal insight, and spiritual discernment as you begin this process and continue to pray regarding your purpose on a consistent basis. In addition to prayer, think of successful people who possess the positive traits that you want to develop and that will be essential to realizing your purpose. Study their lives and see what motivated their success.

Turn to the pages of Scripture and through prayerful study and reflection, examine the lives of those characters you hold in high esteem. And above all, look to the life of Jesus, our ultimate guide. Ask yourself, “How did Jesus go about demonstrating the optimal version of himself?” Keep in mind, Jesus was fully human. He was not some strange, ethereal being who was on spiritual auto-pilot. Jesus had to make choices, just as you do.

After spending a couple of weeks on the above exercises, take out a notebook or sit at your keyboard and write out a vision of yourself – a positive, spiritual vision of yourself as your optimal self. Make a list of the character assets you possess. Spend time in prayer discussing these traits with God and asking for the assistance of the Holy Spirit in making them a reality in your life. Finally, write a specific definition of the best version of yourself and how you will serve the world.

Once you have a workable definition, set aside a special time each day and see this best version of yourself in your mind’s eye. See yourself manifesting the qualities described in your definition, engaging in the activities you listed, and serving in your best capacity. This exercise of your imagination is a key component of making the best version of yourself a reality.

From the outset, you must learn to consistently see the best version of yourself and your life unfolding in your inner vision. The power of the mind’s eye is uncanny. It is through our capacity of thought and inner visualization that we are capable of taking something out of the realm of the unseen and making it a reality in the realm of the seen. This requires faith: faith in yourself and your abilities; and faith in the principles of optimal cognition. If you have a problem, see it resolved; if your have a business, see it succeeding; if you have a dream, see it unfolding according to your desire.

Let this positive image become a part of yourself, sinking down into the subconscious mind and your inner spirit, the central core of yourself.

A fundamental principle of human nature is that whatever you keep before your mind’s eye will affect you, either for good or for bad. If you consistently focus on negativity and dwell on your problems, your mindset will become darker and your problems will worsen. If you focus on limitation, lack, failure, and defeat, this is the kind of life you are going to create. Instead, try focusing your mental energy on success, victory, health, abundance, peace, joy, and happiness. Our innermost spirit, which is one with the Divine Source, has as its purpose the unfolding of your greatest good. Don’t lose sight of that truth. In order to create the kind of life you want, you have to get your thoughts and your inner vision in alignment with the power and purpose of your innermost spirit, your “Inner Light.”

This visualization process is not a fantasy or an escape from reality. It is, instead, based on centuries of practical application and positive results. When life presents you with problems, many times there is nothing you can do about it. However, you can have complete control over your response to any problem life sends your way. You can have greater peace of mind if you just choose to have the right kind of thoughts. Focus your entire being on finding solutions, rather than wallowing in the problems at hand. Work diligently to find the Inner Light, and when you do, continue to take proactive measures to deepen and maintain your contact with this sacred aspect of your being.

The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life that never realized its full potential. You must decide today not to rob the world of the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you. It has been said that the wealthiest place on earth is not in bank vaults, Fort Knox, or underneath Bill Gates mattress. No, the wealthiest place on earth is the cemetery.

Beneath the gravestones lie so many dreams that went unfulfilled; so much potential that was never realized; so much purpose that was never discovered and manifested. I am reminded of the poignant verses of Tagore in the Gitangali:

The song that I came to sing remains 

unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in
unstringing my instrument.

Be persistent and keep at it in a disciplined, optimistic manner. Before you know it, you will hear your song ringing up from your inner spirit. From that point forward your life will be more positive and meaningful. And when the day comes when you leave this world, you will leave a valuable contribution to those who follow you. Whether great or small, you will leave a positive legacy.  And for certain, you won’t be making a deposit in the Bank of Dead Dreams.

© L.D. Turner 2008/2012/All Rights Reserved

 

Discerning the Deceitful and the Delusional

Prophet Jeremiah, Russian icon from first quar...
Prophet Jeremiah, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

Recently, while looking through the writings of Jeremiah, I ran across highlighted scriptures that caught my eye on several occasions in the past. I vividly recall how, when I reflected on these passages in a prayerful manner, their current relevance jumped off the page with an unmistakable clarity. It was as if the Holy Spirit especially wanted these words to come alive for me and that they did. Like I have commented in the past, at times like these scripture ceases to be just printed words on a page and instead, morphs into a living organism.

The subject matter here comes from Jeremiah 23 and deals with his observations that many religious leaders, including priests and prophets, are deceiving people with dreams, prophecies, and other revelations that they claim to be from God, but are actually made up from their own imaginations or worse, their own treacherous hearts.

When I read these words from the prophet Jeremiah I am reminded so clearly of what I hear going on in many corners of the church today. I hear various preachers, teachers, self-proclaimed “prophets” and “apostles”, along with lay brothers and sisters who have what they claim to be a “word” from the Lord, or a “vision,” a dream, or some other form of divine revelation. I am certain that in some cases these phenomena are exactly what they are said to be, but in the majority of cases my internal “discernment alarm” goes off loud and long. Instead of a true “word” or revelation from the Holy Spirit, my fear is that many of these self-styled “teachers” are either deceiving themselves, being duped by the enemy, or worst of all, deliberately leading others astray in order to advance some personal agenda, often financial.

The prophet Jeremiah dealt with a similar infestation in his day, and that is exactly what it is my friends, an infestation. In Jeremiah’s time many religious leaders, motivated by their own personal agendas as well as self-deception, were leading followers down various paths laced with deception. Reading the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah, you cannot help seeing this issue with great clarity. In graphic terms, the prophet describes the impact of these “prophets” on himself and on the nation:

My heart is broken because of the false prophets,

And my bones tremble.

I stagger like a drunkard, like someone overcome by wine,

Because of the holy words the Lord has spoken against them.

For the land is full of adultery and it lies under a curse.

(Jeremiah 23: 9-10 NLT)

After further describing these false teachers, Jeremiah expands upon the effect of their erroneous teachings. He then warns the people:

Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,

Filling you with futile hopes.

They are making up everything they say.

They do not speak for the Lord.

(Jeremiah 23: 16 NLT)

Speaking through the prophet, the Lord makes it clear that these false teachers were not sent by him and that they do not speak for him. As I listen to so many preachers, teachers, evangelists, and “apostles” speaking today, it strikes me as clearly evident that God did not send them, either. Sure, they may claim to have a “word from the Lord” or a “holy vision.” And perhaps a small percentage that makes this claim are genuine. But in my estimation, many are engaging in their own dreams, fantasies, and vain imaginings. As stated earlier, some are merely self-deceived, while others have darker motives of personal gain or advancement of the enemy’s agenda.

This state of affairs is made more critical by the fact that the church is at such a pivotal point in its history. Marked by a massive exodus from their ranks, the older Mainline denominations are, at best, hanging by a thread. Even the Southern Baptist Convention, long the solid backbone of Evangelicalism, is now losing members and yearly baptism numbers are at record lows. The only churches that seem to be growing are generally of an independent, charismatic nature, but researchers are sometime cautious about the statistics associated with this group, along with the Word of Faith churches, because it appears the membership rolls are constantly shifting, with new members flowing in and at least an equivalent number flowing out.

My point here is that the church, floundering as it is with these problems, can only be further weakened by false teachers, prophets, and the like. Already viewed in a generally negative light, every time a prominent Christian leader is caught in some sort of scandal, usually either sexual or financial, it only deepens the public image of Christians as little more than hucksters and hypocrites.

I am of the firm conviction that now, perhaps more than ever, each Christian must take it upon himself or herself to take responsibility for deepening their capacity for discernment. Granted, some are gifted in this area, but gifted or not, each of us needs to become as sharp as possible when it comes to discerning the spirits. Otherwise, we run the very real risk of wasting valuable time, resources, and energy running here and there chasing windmills, rather than going about the kingdom business we are all called to: deepening our relationship with Christ, making disciples, and serving others in his name.

There is no magic formula for developing discernment and chances are you already know how to do it, you just haven’t seen the necessity of it and taken the time. Here is a list of a few basic strategies that, if consistently applied, should help you deepen your level of spiritual discernment:

  • Pray diligently, asking the Holy Spirit to help you specifically in this area.
  • Immerse yourself in scripture. The key principle for evaluating any teaching or preaching is making sure that it is aligned with biblical principles.
  • Read several books that discuss how to deepen your level of discernment. Also, explore relevant material on the Internet and apply what you learn.
  • If you know someone who is gifted in the area of discernment, ask them to mentor you for a period of time.

Christianity in the West is at a crucial crossroads. The church finds itself in a time of shifting sands and changing landscapes. In a metaphorical way, this state of affairs is like being in the desert or, like the ancient Hebrew people, wandering about in the wilderness. We may wander off the path in countless ways, certain we are traveling in the right direction, only to discover we have been chasing a mirage. In other cases, we become mesmerized by a certain teaching, an innovative program, or, as is often the case, a highly personable teacher. In this mesmerized state, we are prone to drift far off the course set for us by the Master.

It is vital that we train ourselves in the ways and means of biblical discernment, especially in these changing times. To neglect this critical need, for whatever reason, is not a viable option.

© L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved

Singing Your Sacred Song

Inner light
Inner light (Photo credit: Colin 30d)

Mick Turner

(This article was initially published back in 2008. Recently, I have received several requests to post it on LifeBrook).

The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life that never realized its full potential. You must decide today not to rob the world of the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you. It has been said that the wealthiest place on earth is not in bank vaults, Fort Knox, or underneath Bill Gates mattress. No, the wealthiest place on earth is the cemetery.

Beneath the gravestones lie so many dreams that went unfulfilled; so much potential that was never realized; so much purpose that was never discovered and manifested. I am reminded of the poignant verses of Tagore in the Gitangali:

The song that I came to sing remains
unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in
unstringing my instrument.
The time has not come true, the words
have not been rightly set; only there is the
agony of wishing in my heart.
The blossom has not opened; only the
wind is sighing by.
I have not seen his face, nor have I
listened to his voice; only I have heard his
gentle footsteps from the road before my
house.
The livelong day has passed in spreading
his seat on the floor; but the lamp has not
been lit and I cannot ask him into my
house.
I live in the hope of meeting with him;
but the meeting is not yet.

I actually got goose bumps the first time I read Tagore’s words. I vowed at that moment that my song would not go unsung. Whatever contribution I was to make to this world would be made before I came to rest in that wealthy domain we spoke of earlier. I can also say that my song continues, with new lines, verses and melodies as my life unfolds. For this, I am ever grateful.

It is vital that every person understand that we are responsible for developing the potential stored within us. We must deepen our contact with our divine potential, which I call our Sacred Self, and do all that we can to nurture, feed, and actualize our true potential. Further, we must recognize that as we move forward in developing our optimal potential, we can never afford to stop. In essence, when we travel the metaphysical journey, we are either moving forward or backward. There is truly no place to stand on the spiritual path.

Spiritual growth is a complex subject and we could waste much time and space exploring the more arcane aspects of personal unfolding. However, I choose instead to try to keep things as simple as feasible, especially in the context of a short article. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a topic that seems to cause many sincere seekers to go off the tracks and race down many unproductive rabbit holes. I am talking here about the subject of “purpose.” The issue of purpose is intimately connected with potential and it is often difficult to talk about one without delving into the other.

Many of us are so obsessed with “finding our purpose” that we ignore more important aspects of the spiritual journey. Granted, the universe seems to be arranged in such a way that each of us came to this planet with a unique mission. In spite of this, however, all of us share components of a more generalized, universal purpose. In my own journey, I have come to define a central aspect of this universal purpose shared by all as follows:

“I must become the best version of myself for the sake of others.”

“Well, I can’t argue with that,” you might say. “But how do I pull it off?”

Good question. Space does not permit a detailed explanation of the complete methodology of becoming the best version of yourself and, besides, I believe that each of us must find our own personal way of unfolding our divine nature. Still, I think we can look at two practical things we can do: define and visualize.

Begin by spending time developing a definition of the best version of yourself. What qualities will your highest self possess? What kind of activities will be a central part of your life and your spiritual development? How will you earn your living? And most significantly, how will you be of service to others?

Once you have a workable definition, set aside a special time each day and see this best version of yourself in your mind’s eye. See yourself manifesting the qualities described in your definition, engaging in the activities you listed, and serving in your best capacity. This exercise of your imagination is a key component of making the best version of yourself a reality.

From the outset, you must learn to consistently see the best version of yourself and your life unfolding in your inner vision. The power of the mind’s eye is uncanny. It is through our capacity of thought and inner visualization that we are capable of taking something out of the realm of the unseen and making it a reality in the realm of the seen. This requires faith: faith in yourself and your abilities; and faith in the principles of optimal cognition. If you have a problem, see it resolved; if your have a business, see it succeeding; if you have a dream, see it unfolding according to your desire.

Let this positive image become a part of yourself, sinking down into the subconscious mind and your inner spirit, the central core of yourself.

A fundamental psychological principal states that whatever you keep before your mind’s eye will affect you, either for good or for bad. If you consistently focus on negativity and dwell on your problems, your mindset will become darker and your problems will worsen. If you focus on limitation, lack, failure, and defeat, that is the kind of life you are going to create. Instead, try focusing your mental energy on success, victory, health, abundance, peace, joy, and happiness. Our innermost spirit, which is one with the Divine Source, has as its purpose the unfolding of your greatest good. Don’t lose sight of that truth. In order to create the kind of life you want, you have to get your thoughts and your inner vision in alignment with the power and purpose of your innermost spirit, what is often called your “Inner Light.”

This visualization process is not a fantasy or an escape from reality. It is, instead, based on centuries of practical application and positive results. When life presents you with problems, many times there is nothing you can do about it. However, you can have complete control over your response to any problem life sends your way. You can have greater peace of mind if you just choose to have the right kind of thoughts. Focus your entire being on finding solutions, rather than wallowing in the problems at hand. Work diligently to find your Inner Light, and when you do, continue to take proactive measures to deepen and maintain your contact with this sacred aspect of your being.

Be persistent and keep at it in a disciplined, optimistic manner. Before you know it, you will hear your song ringing up from your Sacred Center. From that point forward your life will be more positive and meaningful. And when the day comes when you leave this world, your won’t be making a deposit in the Bank of Dead Dreams.

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

Introducing Jesus Christ – Again (Part Two)

Cover of "Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the ...
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Mick Turner

(Continued from Part One)

It seems that over the last couple of centuries the church has become increasingly less “Christ-centered” and in doing so, has completely lost its divine grounding and its sense of direction. I remember spending time as a child on my grandmother’s farm in rural North Alabama. Whenever she wanted to fix fried chicken, she didn’t go down to the supermarket to pick up a fryer. Instead, she sent my father out to get a hen from the barnyard.

I vividly recall that my dad would decapitate the hapless bird and even without a head, the chicken would go flapping around in circles for awhile before finally keeling over. In many ways, this childhood memory is analogous to the present condition of the church. Christ is the head of the church and without a firm connection to the head, the church also runs around in misguided, uncoordinated circles before it eventually collapses. This is a reality we can ill afford in the contemporary Body Of Christ.

The remedies for this situation are multi-faceted and complex. Yet I have become convinced that whatever constellation of strategies we implement in our attempts to rectify this hapless dilemma, one thing remains constant. We must have as the central and defining element an unrelenting focus on Christ, not just as a historical or celestial figure to be worshiped. Instead, we must come to view Christ for the truly magnificent and wondrous being that he is and also come to an understanding and internalization of his role as a living, vibrant agent of transformation.

Centuries ago, for whatever reasons, the church seems to have lost sight of this aspect of Jesus Christ and his mission to this planet. In our obsessive worship of Jesus as “Savior,” we somehow managed to jettison his transformative power as an agent of personal and social change. I think this is the chief reason we see so many otherwise sincere believers walking around in a state of bafflement, aimlessness, and quiet desperation.

Last year, on this site, I posted a piece entitled, A Decapitated Church is a Lifeless Corpse. In that article I discussed these themes at some length. I also included several cogent, powerful passages from the fine book entitled, Jesus Manifesto, written by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. It was my intention in that article and this one as well, to get across the same point made by Sweet and Viola in their excellent book. Stated simply, that point is that the primary task of the church in this challenging time is to reintroduce the world to Christ and his kingdom. And sadly enough, this mission begins with the church itself. I daresay that a near-majority of contemporary church-goers have only a minimal understanding of just who Christ was and is, much less what he accomplished and expects of us.

With that being said, it is critical that the church develop workable, practical strategies that will help its own members deepen their awareness of who and what it is they are dealing with. Sweet and Viola, for example, give us this introduction:

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.

I think Sweet and Viola have put together a positive, creative, and pragmatic way of introducing Christ to those outside the church as well as those inside the Body of Christ who have, for all practical purposes, never met the Master in any comprehensive fashion. Granted, no one definition or description can cover all the bases when we are dealing with a subject that is vast, cosmic, and ineffable. Still, we can create first-rate starting points and I believe this definition by Sweet and Viola precisely this.

I would like to suggest a spiritual exercise that you might carry out in the near future. Using the description of Christ given by Sweet and Viola, take one line a day as a focus for prayer, meditation, and reflection. In a period of quiet time, begin by asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you in whatever way he deems fit regarding that one line. Read the sentence, reflect on what it says to you about the person, the nature, and the mission of Christ. Record what you discover in a journal or notebook that you keep for this particular spiritual practice. If possible, do this in the morning and in the evening. From my personal experience with spiritual practice, I feel confident in assuring you that you will come out of it with a deeper and more life-changing awareness of just what manner of being Jesus Christ was and is.

If the contemporary church is to be healed, this is where we must begin.

© L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved