A New Years Prayer

Holy Spirit Stained Glass
Holy Spirit Stained Glass (Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble)

Mick Turner

I first published this prayer back in 2009 and it first appeared here on LifeBrook on New Years Day, 2011. I think it is a powerful little prayer and I have benefited in many ways from its use. I suggest that you give it a try. Like most declarative or affirmative prayers, speak the words with the positive faith and conviction that comes from the awareness that we serve a God of integrity and love, a God who loves us and desires the very best for us:

Today is indeed the first day of a blessed New Year, and today is also the first day of the rest of my life.

I affirm that this year, 2015, will be a year of resurrection, renewal, and restoration and I greet this year with enthusiasm, confidence, and passion. This confident passion arises from my acceptance that in Christ I am a new creation, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Today I know that the old is passing away and that the new has been born. I am a being of Light, Love, and Spirit, committed to spiritual growth, service to others, and to becoming the optimal version of myself.

Today I passionately declare that through the power of the blessed Holy Spirit I am forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead. I press forward into this new year toward the goal and the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen.

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Step Into Your Inheritance

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)

Mick Turner

 

I am convinced that few of us truly understand our true potential as
children of the Father of Lights, the Living God. By remaining ignorant
of who and what we are, we end up limping through life rather than
soaring. We end up settling for scraps from the table when we should, in
fact, own the table and the house that it sits in.

 

For many years I either failed to understand the blessings of the
full gospel or I misunderstood it. Either way, I wasted a lot of time
thinking I knew what I was talking about when, in fact, I didn’t. I
would be greatly saddened if that happened to you and this, my friend,
is one of the main catalysts that gave birth to LifeBrook and Sacred
Mind Ministries. God etched upon my heart the need for sound teaching
and quality educational materials that would foster deeper awareness of
the Christian’s true potential and identity “in Christ.” Further, I
began to understand that the primary purpose of having this blessed gift
of a new identity and new personal power in Christ is to assist in the
establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. It is to this mission that we
at SMM remain committed.

 

Understanding our true identity is intimately connected with the
realization of our divine potential. These issues are among the deeper
things God, working through the Holy Spirit, wants to impart to us. All
we need to receive these vital revelations is an open mind and a
receptive heart. We don’t need to wait until we arrive in heaven to gain
awareness of these gifts – in fact, by the time we get to heaven we
will have already been utilizing our divine power here on earth for many
years. Dr. Myles Munroe speaks clearly to these themes:

 

God has prepared so many deep things about who we are. Our eyes
can’t see them, nor can our minds conceive them, yet God is revealing
them to us through His Spirit. God doesn’t want us to wait until heaven
to know our full potential. He didn’t give birth to us so we can develop
our potential in heaven…..God wants us to realize here on this planet
who we are. That is His purpose in creating us. We need the Holy Spirit
because eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered the
minds of men who man really is. Only the Holy Spirit searches “the deep
things of God.”…..God beckons you to take another step into a deeper,
more relevant knowledge of your potential in Christ – Though you may
have been saved for years. You need to take this step because you still
don’t know who you are.

 

 You see, friends, most of us claiming to be followers of
Christ are well intended but poorly equipped to make those intentions a
reality in daily living. This statement is not intended to be a
criticism of the modern church or a slap in the face of well-meaning
Christians who are committed to bringing God’s kingdom out of the
spiritual realm and making it manifest right here on earth. Instead, I
say these words because they are true. Most of us do not have a clue as
to what we can do to not only make our lives more fruitful and
productive, but also to bring success to the calling that God has placed
in each of our hearts.

 

If we read scripture with diligence and an open mind, it becomes
obvious that we humans were created with a purpose and a holy mission
from the Father of Lights. We were to be his representatives here on
this earth, to have dominion, and to be the spirit-beings through which
God’s kingdom principles were translated from heaven to earth. Just
because of the Fall and its effects, nothing has really changed. How can
I say that? It is simple, actually.

 

I can safely say that our mandate has not changed because of the
work accomplished by Christ, when according to his calling and his
mission, he journeyed far from his Heavenly Home and took up residence
here on this world. Through the successful work of Jesus Christ, God
reclaimed all that was lost when humankind was exiled from the Garden
and sent “East of Eden.” I have little doubt about the fact that we
humans, with our finite understanding, have but a faint – a very faint –
awareness of the mysteries involved in Christ’s mission to this world
in general, and his work on the cross, his death, and subsequent
resurrection and ascension. In the words of the Apostle, we see through a
glass darkly. We do know and can take assurance of this cogent reality:
What was once lost has now been reclaimed by God and part of that
reclamation is the re-establishment of humankind’s dominion rights and
authority.

 

Christ sacrificed much so that we might once again live in freedom
and in intimate fellowship with God. Now Satan is forced to operate
underground, or in more subtle ways. One of his strategies, as we have
seen, is to convince us that rather than joint heirs with Christ and
God’s children of the Light, we are nothing more than sinful worms, with
no power or status under God. It is a lie from the pit of Hell.

 

Your choice, my choice – the choice before every believer is whether
or not we will live according to Satan’s lie or Christ’s empowerment.
As for me, I choose the latter. I will take possession of my status as
God’s representative here on earth and step into my inheritance as a
joint heir with Christ.

 

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

Kingdoms in Conflict: Culture vs. Christ (Revised and Expanded)

English: Folio 9 from the codex; beginning of ...
English: Folio 9 from the codex; beginning of the Gospel of Matthew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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David
Platt, in his landmark book Radical:
Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
, describes how he, like the
majority of American Christians, had rocked along for years with little awareness
of the true implications of Jesus’ teachings regarding our obligation to the
poor. And, also like most American Christians, Platt relates that he had even
less awareness of the plight of those living in oppressive poverty, much less
how this had anything to do with his spiritual journey. He then goes on to
describe his personal epiphany regarding poverty, suffering, and its connection
to the teachings of the Master he professed to follow:

Suddenly I began to realize that
if I have been commanded to make disciples of all nations, and if poverty is
rampant in the world to which God has called me, then I cannot ignore these
realities. Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the
earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to
demonstrate the gospel visibly in a world where so many are urgently hungry. If
I am going to address urgent spiritual need by sharing the gospel of Christ or
building up the body of Christ around the world, then I cannot overlook dire
physical need in the process.

Platt’s
spiritual awakening was life-changing and, in his role as a pastor and writer,
the impact of his personal transformation was even more far-reaching. Platt’s
voice, along with an increasing number of spiritually-astute Christians, is
sorely needed in today’s world, a world in which each day an estimated
twenty-six thousand children die of starvation or preventable disease. If
Christ physically walked the earth today, there can be little doubt that he
would not stand for such a tragedy. The ironic thing is this: Christ does walk the earth today, in the
form of the church, yet we pretend these dying kids don’t exist.
In spite
of our Christian claims of compassion and service, we are successful in our
ignorance of the true extent of the problems in our world. Platt continues:

…..I have turned a blind eye to
these realities. I have practically ignored these people, and I have been
successful in my ignorance because they are not only poor but also powerless.
Literally millions of them are dying in obscurity, and I have enjoyed my
affluence while pretending they don’t exist.

But they do exist. Not only do
they exist, but God takes very seriously how I respond to them.

Jesus’
words in Matthew 25, describing the final judgment and the separation of the
sheep and the goats leave little room for doubt as to how serious he takes the
plight of those in need. The chapter closes with some of the Master’s most
severe teachings regarding the treatment of those in need. Jesus equates
turning away from those in need with turning away from himself:

Depart from
me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his
angels.

Pause
for a moment and prayerfully reflect on what Christ just said here. In the
overall scheme of things, I can’t imagine the pain and suffering awaiting the
enemy and his minions. As God’s divine story of redemption and restoration
winds toward its conclusion, the judgment and justice that will be meted out to
Satan and his followers is a horror that defies description. Yet think of it – the very same fate awaits those who turn a
blind eye, a deaf ear, and an empty hand to those in dire need.

You
will rarely hear a sermon on these themes preached in contemporary churches.
This is a teaching that runs counter to the values of our culture and certainly
is politically incorrect for those Christian joined at the hip with the more
fiscally conservative of our two political parties. The fact is, however, no
matter how you try to rationalize it, explain it away, ignore it, or even deny
it – it is right there in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. As
uncomfortable as it may be, a so-called Christian ignores this teaching at his
or her own peril.

Jesus’
emphasis on compassionate action toward the poor should come as no surprise to
any biblically literate Christian. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Christ began his
comments in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth with these words:

The Spirit
of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.

He has sent
me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that
the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.

For
Jesus, these statements were far more than sugar-coated platitudes or uplifting
affirmations. Instead, these power-filled words were a pronouncement of the
coming of God’s Kingdom to earth and a challenge to the status quo. These
words, which Jesus boldly stated were fulfilled in that synagogue that very
day, were a shot across the bow of the people’s religious comfort zone. No
wonder they tried to throw him over a cliff.

Throughout
his ministry the principles taught by Jesus in his kingdom agenda ran counter
to those of the existing cultural and religious structure. Oddly enough, in a
nation that claims to be “Christian,” Jesus’ kingdom manifesto remains in stark
conflict with the essential values held by the majority of Americans. The
“Sermon on the Mount” contains a tightly-knit summation of the teachings of the
Master. Brian McLaren offers a cogent paraphrase of Jesus’ teaching on the
kingdom:

 

Be poor in spirit, mourn, be
meek, hunger and thirst for true righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart,
be a peace-maker, be willing to joyfully suffer persecution and insult for
doing what is right.

Be salt and light in the world –
by doing good works.

Do not hate or indulge in anger,
but instead seek to reconcile.

Do not lust or be sexually
unfaithful in your heart.

Do not presume to make vows, but
have simple speech, where yes means yes and no, no.

Do not get revenge, but find
creative and nonviolent ways to overcome evil done to you.

Love your enemies, as God does,
and be generous to everyone as God is.

Give to the poor, pray, and fast
secretly.

Don’t let greed cloud your outlook,
but store up treasure in heaven through generosity.

Don’t worry about your own daily
needs, but instead trust yourself to God’s care, and seek God’s kingdom first
and foremost.

Don’t judge others, but instead
first work on your own blindness.

Go to God with all your needs,
knowing that god is a caring Father.

Do to others as you would have
them do to you.

Don’t be misled by religious
talk, what counts is actually living by Jesus’ teaching.

 

Our
culture’s values, and in many cases, the values quietly but deeply held by
those professing to be Christians, run counter to the teachings of Jesus. This
is especially true when it comes to material possessions in general and
personal wealth in particular. I recall in the last Presidential election one
candidate was consistently criticized for wanting to “redistribute wealth” in
America. Ironically, those most vocal in calling this candidate to task over
this issue were Christian Republicans. The fact of the matter is, however, that
a redistribution of wealth was exactly what Jesus consistently called for and
the practices of the early church were much closer to Socialist ideals than any
form of capitalism.

Our
culture, steeped in praise and admiration for individualism and free
enterprise, has infiltrated and weakened the gospel in America. This is not a
recent phenomenon, but has been taking place since the founding of our nation.
I am not saying these principles are necessarily wrong or sinful, but please,
let’s not blaspheme Jesus by somehow insisting that he would approve of so much
wealth being in the hands of one percent of the population while 26,000
children die each day from starvation and preventable disease. If you want to
rail against sin, this kind of thing is the real sin.

I
understand that what I am saying is not popular nor is it in keeping with the
conservative political agenda of Republican Christians. Nevertheless, it is
high time those on the Christian Right prayerfully examined the “faith and
values” they hold so dear. Some ideas of those on the Christian Right may have
a degree of merit, but please, let’s not degrade the Master by putting our
words in his mouth. They just don’t fit. I conclude with the following words by
famed scholar and writer Houston Smith, which although lengthy, are a great
summation of the topic being discussed:

…we have heard Jesus’ teachings so often that their edges have
been worn smooth, dulling their glaring subversiveness. If we could recover
their original impact, we too would be startled. Their beauty would not paper
over the fact that they are “hard sayings,” presenting a scheme of values so
counter to the usual as to shake us like the seismic collision of tectonic
plates…We are told that we are not to resist evil but to turn the other cheek.
The world assumes that evil must be resisted by every means available. We are
told to love our enemies and bless those who curse us. The world assumes that
friends are to be loved and enemies hated. We are told that the sun rises on
the just and the unjust alike. The world considers this to be indiscriminating;
it would like to see dark clouds withholding sunshine from evil people. We are
told that outcasts and harlots enter the kingdom of God before many who are
perfunctorily righteous. Unfair, we protest; respectable people should head the
procession. We are told that the gate to salvation is narrow. The world would
prefer it to be wide. We are told to be as carefree as birds and flowers. The
world counsels prudence. We are told that it is more difficult for the rich to
enter the kingdom than for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye. The world
honors wealth. We are told that the happy people are those who are meek, who
weep, who are merciful and pure in heart. The world assumes that it is the
rich, the powerful, and the wellborn who should be happy. In all, a wind of
freedom blows through these teachings that frightens the world and makes us
want to deflect their effect by postponement – not yet, not yet! H.G. Wells was
evidently right: either there was something mad about this man, or our hearts
are still too small for his message.

I encourage you to spend time over the next
few days prayerfully considering these words of Houston Smith as they echo the
words of Christ and present them in stark comparison to the values of our culture.
Ask the Holy Spirit to assist you in becoming deeply aware of all of your
clever strategies for rationalizing and avoiding the difficulty of Jesus’
teaching.

After completing the above reflections and
prayers, meditate on these words of Jesus:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine
and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain
fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house, but it did not
fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words
of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house
on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat
against the house and it fell – and great was its fall. (Matthew 7:24-27 NRSV)

 Ask
the Holy Spirit for help in discerning where and how you place our culture’s
values above those of the Master. For me, this was a humbling yet eye-opening
experience. I trust it will be for you as well.

© L.D. Turner 2011/2013 All Rights Reserved

Discipleship: Keep It Simple (Part I)

name lost in internet. Seems to be Mystic Marr...
name lost in internet. Seems to be Mystic Marriage of Christ and the Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Increasingly, I am coming to see that the essence of discipleship
is simply to live as Jesus did. If we are truly serious about pursuing an
authentic Christian spirituality, then everything we do must be Christ-driven.
And it will not be difficult for us to ascertain how well we are progressing
along our walk of faith. All we need to do is observe ourselves as we go about
our daily rounds and see to what extent our lives are beginning to resemble the
one Jesus modeled for us.

 

We need not get too obsessive about this evaluation. Instead, all
we need to do is take an honest inventory of the extent our daily lives
manifest principles such as love, compassion, service to others, obedience to
God, discipline, integrity, honor, humility, etc. We must ask ourselves, “To
what extent am I living as Christ lived?” If we have difficulty developing a
list of Christ-like traits, we might use the nine “fruit of the Spirit” listed
by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
and self-control. Another possible list of
character assets can be found in 2 Peter 1:5-7: faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance,
godliness, brotherly kindness,
and love.

 

I have come to firmly believe that making every attempt to live
such a life constitutes the most rewarding life possible. God loves us,
scripture assures us that nothing can separate us from that love (Romans 8:28),
and ultimately, God is in control. What I personally draw from these facts is that
no matter what might be going on, no matter how dark a situation may appear, in
the end, things will work out. Believing this and trusting in God’s love and
provision, I can therefore let go of many petty worries and concerns, stop
wasting vital energy, and instead, devote myself to the task at hand: living as Christ lived. I especially
like what Johnnie Moore says regarding making a decision to live such a life:

 

“What if we decided that to the best of our ability, we would no
longer live a hypocritical, halfhearted Christianity that results in unbelief
and disappointment? What if we decided to not be lukewarm? What if we took all
the energy we spend in doubt and frustration and used it to trust and believe?
What if we went on a pursuit to actually answer our nagging questions instead
of using them as excuses to avoid commitment? What if we chose to run toward
God even when our disappointment with hypocrisy threatens to chase us away from
him? What if we decided to actually live what we believe to the extent that
people’s destinies are changed and Christ is more famous because of Christians
and not in spite of them?”

 

Our superficial approach to discipleship has created a culture of
shallow and hollow faith that leaves genuine spiritual seekers frustrated and
empty. Is it any wonder these seekers are leaving the church in droves due to
their inability to find authentic spiritual experience in its sanctuaries? Dick
Staub doesn’t pull any punches as he describes this process:

 

“Today, most of what we call spiritual searching is in fact a sham
and a vain exercise better described as pseudo-seeking. We seek and do not find
because we seek a God who will improve our life and make us happy without
making any demands on us . . . . . . . . . . We seek and do not find because
our superficial culture trivializes all that it touches, including our ideas of
God and the spiritual. Euphemisms like “the man upstairs,” vagaries like
“higher power,” print ads for a product named “Eternity,” a TV ad for Direct TV
announcing that “someone up there is watching you,” a commercial for a resort
claiming that it is “like heaven without the long term commitment,” or any one
of hundreds of inane interviews with celebrities about their latest faddish
dalliance with the “god in me”; all these shallow glosses on God and the
spiritual obscure what is truly involved in the deeper inner wellness available
through the pursuit of a transcendent yet imminent deity.”

The fact is many of
us have grown quite comfortable with this superficial approach to discipleship.
Making a sold-out, no-holds-barred commitment to Christ resulting in a
willingness to do whatever it takes to go deeper in our walk of faith has
become an alien concept in the contemporary Body of Christ. Jesus warned those
considering becoming his disciple to count the cost of obedience to his
teaching and his way of life. I am increasingly dismayed that complacency has
become the gold standard in today’s church and further, many Christians do not
count the cost of discipleship because they have never been taught the true
ramifications of obedience.

To be continued:

(c) L.D. Turner/2013

Wise Words for Today

British Library Add. MS 59874 Ethiopian Bible ...
British Library Add. MS 59874 Ethiopian Bible – Matthew’s Gospel (Ge’ez script) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The first thing for the Christian
is to recover the gospel – to relearn and fall in love again with that
historic, beautiful, redemptive, faithful, demanding, reconciling,
all-powerful, restorative, atoning, grace-abounding, soul-quenching,
spiritually fulfilling good news of God’s love………….Following Jesus in the
twenty-first century demands that his disciples relearn the full meaning of the
Gospel story, recovering the culminating theme of restoration that runs
throughout the whole of Scripture. This begins by seeing the Gospel as the
central solution to humanity’s age-old questions and self-conflict. But this
story isn’t static; it dynamically continues to unfold today, displaying God’s
original goodness and ultimate intention for all his creation. The good news
for humankind is that we are all made in God’s image, given a path through
Jesus to be reconciled from our sin, and purposed to partner with him to renew
and restore the creation to its fullest potential.

Gabe Lyons

 

Wise Words for Today

English: The healing of the paralytic : wall p...
English: The healing of the paralytic : wall painting in the baptistry of the domus ecclesiae in Dura Europos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Jesus
is like air to the lungs and water to a desert dweller. He is not a religious
artifact. He’s not dead. He is alive. He is engaged and engaging. He is here
now, changing lives all over this world this very moment. When He walked on
earth He changed everything for everyday, for all time. What started then
continues today. It can’t be stopped though many have tried. Jesus is the rock
of redemption and His church will prevail. He is here in this moment with you,
doing what He always does, calling you to a higher place, calling you to break
free from convention and stop going to church and start being the church
everywhere you go. Let’s be “Jesus people” again. Let’s be men and women whose
hearts are captured, redeemed, renewed, enlivened, ignited, set fee! Let’s
return to the revolution to be the change we want to see in the world!

David Foster

Wise Words for Today

The Pharisees Question Jesus
The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ran across this highlighted quotation when reviewing Tyler Edwards’ fine book entitled, Zombie Church. I think it states clearly our tendency to turn ideas, doctrines, and even scripture into idols. These are wise words, indeed:

We are looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. Doctrine is very important, but doctrine is not God. The Bible is very important but, again, it is not God. Sometimes in the church we look for life in these places, but that is not where life is found. Even within the church, with our best intentions, we sometimes make ourselves into Pharisees by putting the words about Jesus before Jesus Himself. Many churches focus so much on what is said in scripture that they do not seem to know Jesus at all. It is not difficult for us to turn the Bible into an idol, especially if we read it for the knowledge it gives us rather than the relationship it builds. Life is not about what you know, it is about who you know. It comes from Jesus, plain and simple. Yet sometimes we choose to stop only at an intellectual understanding because, well, quite frankly it is easier to learn information than it is to build genuine relationship.