Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Five Foundations of Positive Success

Mick Turner

If you are to be successful in pursuit of your goals and vision, you need to internalize these cardinal concepts, which I have termed the Five Foundations of Positive Success, into your core character. If one studies the lives of great men and women throughout history it is readily apparent that they, one and all, manifested these positive traits of great character in all that they did. Without a doubt, it was these very principles that led to their successful accomplishments. What are the "Five Foundations of Positive Success?”

Desire – Dedication – Devotion – Discipline – Determination

It is a foundational principle of success that every positive accomplishment that was ever made began as a desire in the mind of an individual. Desire is that initial impetus that gives birth to our dreams and it is desire that motivates us to achieve those dreams. All great things begin with positive desire.

Dedication is an act of the mind. From the outset, make a firm decision to follow your dream, no matter what it takes. If you dream is consistent with the will of God, benefits others, and brings glory to the Creator, then rest assured that it was He that placed this dream in your heart. Make a resolute commitment to believe in yourself and your abilities. It is a fundamental law of spirituality that God never places a dream in your heart without also providing you with the ability to achieve that dream. In addition, keep in mind that dedication is a mental act and is based on positive desire and positive thinking.

Devotion is an act of the heart. You will find that getting your emotions involved in your goals and dreams can be of great benefit. One of the most valuable lessons I learned early on in my ministry efforts is: If you don t fall in love with your vision, you will not advance toward its realization. Emotions flow from the heart and they can provide fuel to energize personal motivation. Emotions have been described as “energy in motion” and that is essentially what they are. Desire, coupled with faithful devotion, is the basis for creating a supportive environment for positive action in your life.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned over the years concerns the necessity of discipline in all areas of our lives. Without personal discipline, the achievement of Christian success is impossible. Without personal discipline, your dreams will eventually crash and burn so never, ever, short-change the importance of being a disciplined disciple.

Discipline is an act of the will requiring sacrifice and strength of character. It is important to realize that improving your level of competency in any field often necessitates experiencing short-term pain in order to achieve long-term benefit. This is a foundational truth for Christian success. In practical terms, your goals will often require that you, through acts of disciplined will, give up certain activities to devote more time to the pursuit of your vision and success.

Determination combines the mind, the emotions, and the will. In practical terms, determination means facing difficulties with optimism rather than pessimism. It means pursuing your dreams under all kinds of circumstances, good and bad. Determination implies that you keep going even when things get rough. When you possess determination, you maintain a positive attitude even when your progress is slow and particularly when other demands and responsibilities crowd in on your plans.

Determination does not come easy. It requires your conscious attention and consistent effort to apply your mind, your heart, and your will as well as the other four “foundations” of desire, dedication, devotion, and discipline.

The "Five Foundations of Positive Success" form the bedrock upon which the structure of any worthwhile goal is built. Without this quintet of character assets your chances of personal success is minimal. However, at times when we begin to incorporate new, more positive ways in which to approach life in general and our goals in particular, we encounter unexpected resistance arising from within ourselves. When this happens we have to keep in mind that our old, habitual ways of doing things are usually deeply ingrained. Making things even more difficult is the fact that, in spite of our best intentions, we often hold on to these negative patterns of thought and behavior simply because they are familiar. More baffling is our tendency to do this even though these very tendencies of negativity bring us less than positive results.

These deeply imbedded negative thought patterns and character traits are what the Apostle Paul called “strongholds.” Strongholds can be formed in several ways including traumatic, emotionally charged events, repetitious patterns of negative thinking, assaults from the Enemy, or a combination of any of these. No matter how particular strongholds are formed, they are often difficult to deal with.

As Christ-followers, our primary tools for tearing down strongholds, and preventing new ones from forming, are to utilize the spiritual weapons outlined by the Apostle in the sixth chapter of the Book of Ephesians. In addition, we must understand and accept that we cannot deal with strongholds with our own power alone. We need the help of the Holy Spirit and we elicit this assistance through prayer. Ask God to help you tear down an especially stubborn stronghold and also ask a trusted brother or sister in the faith to pray for you as well.

In addition, we must become acutely aware of our patterns of thinking. The reason for this centers on the fact that strongholds are constructed, like everything else, with the building blocks of our thoughts. Our goal is to consistently intercept the negative thoughts associated with particular strongholds and stop them in their tracks. Paul calls this “taking thoughts captive for Christ.” The success of many disciples has verified that the next step in dealing with strongholds is, after intercepting the negative thoughts, is to immediately replace them with positive thoughts.

Bear in mind that this cognitive process does not occur overnight. It took a long time to form these counter-productive ways of thinking and responding to life and it will take time to eliminate them. Yet always maintain your sense of hope and keep in mind that one positive thought overcomes the effect of many negative ones. Just as turning on one light can overcome the darkness in a room, lighting up your mind with a single positive thought can illuminate and eliminate dark patterns of thinking. Remain patient, keep praying, and trust God to provide the help he promised. If you keep at it, your success is assured.

To conclude, we have perhaps now traveled full-circle. In our discussion of the “Five Foundations of Positive Success” we discovered that it was often cognitive and behavioral strongholds that formed much of the resistance we encounter when attempting to put these vital principles into practice. Now, I would like you to understand the fact that, in addition to the spiritual tools outlined above that we can use to deal with strongholds, we can also use the “Five Foundations” as well. Think about it. Desire, dedication, devotion, discipline, and determination are all needed in combating these deeply embedded aspects of our thought life and behavior.

These five key principles we have been exploring are not optional if we want to achieve and maintain success in any field of endeavor. Further, these five principles are in many ways like “mirrors” in that each one of the five reflects the other four. The Five Foundations of Positive Success exist as a unified and interdependent whole. When you apply one principle, you automatically apply all of them in a number of ways.

I encourage you to continue to explore what these cardinal principles of success mean to you and to pray in earnest to the Father to help strengthen each of these vital characteristics in your being. It will be well worth your time and effort.

© L. Dwight Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Blessings of God's Presence

L. Dwight Turner

For many years in my spiritual walk I wandered in the wilderness, seeking answers down many avenues and not a few dark alleyways. I often felt bewildered, alone, without direction and devoid of guidance. All too often I found myself isolated at a spiritual dead end, trumpeting loudly in my heart like an elephant at a dried out waterhole. I often felt abandoned by God and spiritually exhausted. I was burned out, burned down, and, more times than I care to admit, so despondent that I wanted to take the whole spiritual quest and toss it once and for all. But now, in retrospect, I can see God's hand in each dark alley I stumbled down. I can see his caring guidance in each barren and arid well. For in each of these wanderings I learned much. I gained not only knowledge that has proved useful in many areas of life, but also obtained an experiential understanding of what Solomon meant when he said so many of our pursuits, even the most noble ones, are chasing after the wind. Most significantly, the Holy Spirit gave me the awareness that in my times of despair and what I thought was spiritual failure, I had not failed completely.

I only failed to hear the voice.

What voice? The same voice that accompanied Moses and his large band of followers in their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The voice that whispered the comforting words that would have filled my empty heart with a glimmer of hope. The voice that said, "I am with thee".

The Creator and Sustainer, the God of All Comfort led the wandering Israelites through the barren landscape, always remaining faithful in his promise to lead them into the land of plenty. He remained with them, in spite of their lack of fidelity, in spite of their disobedience, in spite of their seeking comfort in places and things other than Himself. "I am with thee", he said and surely he was. How much more is he with us now? Has God changed? No. Has he altered his promise? No. Has he withdrawn his covenant to lead us into the Promised Land? No.

In fact, since the Incarnation he is with us more than ever. The angel of the Lord announced to Joseph, "They shall call his name Emmanuel,” God with us. How much more is God now with us, even in our meandering faithlessness and spiritual adultry? No less than he was with the Israelites. In fact, he is now with us in a new and more glorious way. He lived among us and left one-third of himself to reside in each and every one of us. It is to this God who we are called to consecrate our lives. The call to us is the same as the call in those days of old. We are called to trust in the God who is with us.

Again, Hannah Smith says it so cogently:

God is everywhere present in His universe, surrounding everything, and sustaining everything, and holding all of us in His safe and blessed keeping……We cannot drift from the love and care of an ever-present God. And those Christians who think He has forsaken them, and who cry out for His presence, are crying out in ignorance of the fact that He is always and everywhere present with them. In truth they cannot get out of His presence, even should they try.

The message in these words by Smith, as well as in the adventures of the Jewish people in the wilderness serve to bring home to us the fact that God is always there whether we perceive his presence or not. He is there with us in times of trial and in times of blessing; in the darkness before the dawn and in the brilliant light of midday; in the brittle and barren moments of spiritual aridity and the lush and lovely times when we feel awash in the everlasting waters. He is, indeed, Emmanuel – God with us.

Given the realities of the pressure-packed, fast-paced world in which we daily go about our business, it is an easy affair to forget God’s presence. I know this is true in my own life and I suspect, from time to time, this sense of God’s absence is a universal experience. It is a vital blessing and a comfort to know and trust that, even in those times when we think the Lord has gone on Sabbatical, that his live-giving presence is as close as our own breath and our own heartbeat. It is so easy to overlook this reality and yet it is so crucial that we keep coming back to the awareness, revealed not only in scripture, but in the experience of countless saints and in the traditions of the church in all its flavors, that God is right there with us.

Often our sense of God’s absence is brought about by external factors such as stress, pressures from family, work, or friends, or the myriad responsibilities we all face in trying to make ends meet in a world that demands much from us. At other times, however, we avoid God’s presence if at all possible. Take Jonah, for example. God had a clear mission for Jonah to accomplish yet Jonah wanted no part of it. He chose to flee God rather than face him. God directed Jonah in one direction and he went double-time in the opposite way. The results were predictable because God is there, even when we don’t want him to be. Perhaps nowhere is this reality more clearly penned than in the words of David in Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there?
If I make my be in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning
And settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me,
And your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
And the light around me become night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to you;
The night is as bright as the day,
For darkness is as light to you.

(Psalm 139: 7-12 NRSV)

I take great comfort in the promise that God is there at all times, whether I want him or not. You see, the reality is that I want him far more than I don’t. I have come to understand that even thought there may be things that I want to hide from God from time to time, it is in my best interest not to hide them. And beyond this, I could not hide them, even if I wanted to.

God is described by Paul as “the God of all comfort,” and to my way of thinking, one of the greatest comforts is the fact he is always present, no matter what I am going through. We could ask for no greater resource than this. Jesus clearly understood this when he made this promise to his disciples (and to us) shortly before he ascended into heaven:

“And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

(c) L.D. Turner 2008/ All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random Thoughts On Our Identity In Christ

L. Dwight Turner

One of the primary reasons so many Christians walk in much less victory than God intends stems from the fact that they still don’t understand the full extent of the gospel message. For much of our shared history, American Protestants have emphasized the blood of Christ and the atonement for sins. Granted, this is a portion of the gospel truth, however, the mission of Christ was far greater than that. Unfortunately, a significant number of Christians don’t fathom the rich treasures Christ has provided through his incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascendancy. In order to regain a full perspective on the accomplishments of Christ, our new identity as Children of the Light, and the authority and power granted to us, we need to carefully study Scripture and ascertain the full extent of the blessings of God’s provision through Christ.

Often, we toss about the word salvation and, after hearing the word so many times, lose sight of just what the word implied to the first Christ-followers and, by implication, to us as well. “Sozo” is the Greek word for salvation and it implies a sense of completion, soundness, health, and the absence of disharmony on all levels. Sozo thus refers to a reality far greater than the remission of sins, although that is an important aspect of the word’s meaning. Sozo, taken in its biblical context, refers to the fact that God, through Christ, has given His grace whereby we are freed from all obstacles and hindrances that could stand in the way of us becoming all that we were created to be. Salvation implies that through God’s grace we freed from bondage to anything that hinders our ability to become complete in Christ, manifesting our original nature, created in the image of God.

I think that this general lack of awareness on the part of many Christians stems from a complex constellation of factors, but for the sake of simplicity, perhaps we can focus on four sources of misinformation about the full extent of the gospel: the pulpit; the enemy; the world; our own habitual patterns of thought and behavior.

Perhaps many of you are wondering how I could imply that the pulpit may in some way be responsible for our general lack of understanding of who and what we are in Christ. The answer is simple. By choosing to consistently focus on the blood of Christ and the expense of the provisions generated as a result of his resurrection and ascension, many pastors and preachers have contributed to this miasma of misunderstanding. This in no way minimizes the blood of Christ, but instead, it completes the work done on the cross. If Christ died for our sins, but left us completely under the power of “sin,” (our sinful nature), then we would be no better off than the Israelites who were dependent each year on the placing of their sins upon the “scapegoat,” which was then release to wander in the desert until it died. After the Day of Atonement, the Jews then began the process of accumulating sin that would need atonement the following year.

Pastors, preachers, and Bible teachers need to repeatedly stress that God has provided all that we need to lead a godly, holy life (see 2 Peter 1:5). Through the blood, our sins are forgiven; through the cross, our sin is dealt with. Unfortunately, the pulpit has not stressed this aspect of the gospel nearly enough.

In terms of the enemy and the world, these two forces often act in concert to minimize what we have been granted in Christ. After all, the popular views of our culture are often in opposition to what God would have us do, whether it is in terms of our actual behavior or, at an even more subtle level, how we think and how we view the world. Let’s take a brief look at how these two forces, Satan and the world, might be a formidable obstacle when it comes to understanding our true blessings “in Christ.”

In today’s spiritual marketplace, the church is often assailed by the enemy in ways both manifest and subtle. One of Satan’s main strategies is to put forth teachings that contain a grain of scriptural truth and, at least on the surface, sound good, especially from a worldly perspective. For example, many contemporary Bible teachers focus on material wealth and prosperity. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with wealth and having possessions, so long as we are not controlled by them. However, these teachers often go to scripture to support their contentions and, in so doing, often miss the point of the particular verse or portion of scripture they cite. Most of the current prosperity gospel advocates justify their teaching by quoting Jesus in John 10:10:

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

According to the prosperity teachers, Jesus was speaking of material abundance when he uttered these words. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Given the situation they were in, I doubt the early Christians were overly concerned with gaining material wealth. In the early days of the church, the prime focus was on solidifying the local church, spreading the gospel, and staying alive.

When Christ spoke of abundance in John 10:10, he was speaking of the fullness of life. Here Jesus is talking about the fact that through his mission, believers will now have the capacity to have the fullness of life that was lost due to the Fall. In essence, He was referring to a restored humanity, now in proper relationship with God and ready to bear fruit.

The theological minutia surrounding the discussions of justification and sanctification can be both confusing and distracting. Although gaining an understanding of these concepts is important, for our present conversation going into depth about such matters would be an unnecessary distraction. For now, let’s just suffice to say that understanding and accepting who we are in Christ is central to the process of spiritual formation. Further, it is important that we see that our adoption into God’s family is an act of grace. Neil Anderson tells us:

Only as we see ourselves as sons and daughters of God can we really grow in holiness (see Romans 8:15). Only as we are free from the task of trying to gain a relationship with God by our own righteousness or cleanness will we be free to appropriate His righteousness and holiness for our growth.

Without Christ, his work on the cross and in rising from the tomb, we could not even begin to progress in terms of spiritual formation. In order to grow in spirit, we have to be connected to God. Just as a fish cannot thrive unless it is in water, we cannot thrive outside of our natural environment, which is proper connection with God. Christ’s mission accomplished this reconnection with our Maker and made all spiritual formation possible. Without the regeneration provided by the mission of Christ, we would remain in a state of separation from God. Listen to Neil Anderson as he so accurately elaborates this theme:

Spiritual growth in the Christian life requires a relationship with God, who is the fountain of spiritual life. Only through this relationship can we bear new seed or tap into the root of life. As in nature, unless there is some seed or root of life within an organism, no growth can take place. So unless there is a root of life within the believer – that is, some core of spiritual life – growth is impossible. There is nothing to grow.

The thrust of what is being said in this article is centered on the fact that we need to seize our proper identity in Christ, but in doing so, we must also understand the work of Christ on the cross and through his resurrection and ascension. Underlying this vital comprehension is that fact that we cannot be who and what we were intended to be without being in proper, intimate relationship with God. In order for that to be possible, our relationship must be restored. That’s where the Blood of Christ comes into play. Through his death, in some mysterious way Christ paid the debt for our sin and made reunion with the Father possible.

Beyond that, through his dying to self and rising in new life, we, too, may also die to our old way of being and rise in newness of life. But the story doesn’t end there. Christ, through his ascension into heaven he made possible the coming of the Holy Spirit. As Christ himself said, “Unless I leave, the Spirit won’t come.” As stated, Christ’s departure and his seat at the right hand of the Father make possible the Spirit’s presence in our lives. Now, just as the Father walked in the garden with the first couple, the Spirit walks along side of us. Even more important, he has also taken up residence within us.

It is not enough to die and rise again. We must also live in a new manner and it is the Spirit that makes this new way of thinking, feeling, behaving and relating possible. Grasp that, and you are well on your way of appropriating your new identity in Christ.

(c) L.D. Turner 2008/ All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wisdom For Personal Appication

If you are a follower of Christ, then you are mandated by God to be a voracious, intentional learner. You cannot allow yourself to settle, to be less than your best in whatever field of endeavor you have committed yourself to. You must always strive toward excellence in whatever you pursue. And you are not allowed to ignore the world around you - otherwise known as the real world. You are not supposed to be a relic of the past or even a preserver of the past. You are to be in the world making it a better place to live. Rise to the top and see what God can do with your life. This doesn't always mean you will be the best in the world at what you do, but you are supposed to be the world's best you.....Bring your best and move forward with confidence that God's incredible ingenuity will use even your shortcomings to do amazing things through your life.

Erwin Raphael McManus

(from Wide Awake: The Future is Waiting Within You)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Christian Success Principles: Claim Your Identity In Christ

L. Dwight Turner

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new
Creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

Since I was a child, I have had a passionate fascination with bears. It all started when I was around five-years-old and my family took a vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains. It was on this memorable trip that I saw my first bear and it was love at first sight.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence I took every opportunity I could to go and see a bear, whether it be in a carnival, a traveling circus, or in a zoo. I also spent hours studying about bears in encyclopedias and books. I guess no one can really explain why a young person develops these sorts of interests. For many, the fascination passes as adulthood arrives with its myriad responsibilities and other interest. For me, however, I still love bears.

With this information as a backdrop, you can imagine how excited I became back in the early 90’s when I learned that the Miami Zoo had obtained a rare, Tibetan Bear. I was living in Miami at the time and read about the bear in the newspaper. The next day I drove out to the zoo to take a look at the Tibetan Bear.

The zoo in Miami is of the modern type. Animals are not kept in cages, but instead roam with relative freedom, separate from spectators by large ditches, canals, or non-descript fencing. I arrived at the zoo and inquired as to the whereabouts of the Tibetan Bear. I strolled over to the area where the bear was being kept and I was in awe.

A relatively smallish bear, the Tibetan Bear has long hair, brownish red, and a face with much character. The bear was near the small canal that ran between the walkway where I stood and the enclosure where it lived. After observing the animal for several minutes, I noticed something quite odd about its behavior. The bear paced endlessly in the same pattern. It would take eight steps in one direction, slowly pivot on one of its front feet, turn, and take eight steps in the opposite direction. The creature kept this up for the entire time I was there, a total of almost thirty minutes.

Inquiring about this strange behavior, the zookeeper told me the bear was about six-years-old and had lived its entire life in a cage. The eight steps was the exact distance from one side of the cage to the other. The bear had implanted a deep pattern of behavior based on its former environment. It had never been able to take more than eight steps in one direction and now, even though it had the freedom to roam as far as it wanted, it still only took eight steps. According to the zookeeper, a trainer worked with the bear each day in an attempt to help it “unlearn” the old pattern of restrictive behavior. The zookeeper said that most animals that had lived in cages for most of their lives had similar patterns of behavior.

On my way home I reflected on this and had one of those moments of personal epiphany. I realized that I, like the bear and a majority of the Christians that I knew, had a similar problem. Through Christ’s mission on earth, we have had our bars removed as well. The cage of sin and self has been removed and we captives have been set free. As the scripture from 2 Corinthians that opened this article states, “we are new creations.” The old has gone and the new has come. This is part of the good news of the gospel and the result of the healing work Christ’s victory has obtained. Each of us, when we accepted Jesus as Lord, was given a new identity “in Christ.”

So why is it we continue, like the bear, to walk as if we were still behind bars? Why do we continue to behave in the same destructive ways that we did before? Why is it that so few of us seem to walk in the newness of life that Christ promised and Paul spoke of so often?

I think there are many reasons for this unfortunate reality. Part of the reason is just the sheer force of habit. Whenever we repeat a behavior over and over, we tend to eventually do it automatically. In a real sense, we become machine-like. Our world pushes a button and we respond in a predictable way. Another reason is our faulty thinking. Let’s get one fact down deep. Our behavior starts with our thinking or, as said often, the thought is the ancestor of the action. Until we change our thinking, we won’t effectively change our behavior.

Paul realized how important our thinking was to our behavior. That’s why he said we needed to “renew our minds.” All lasting change starts with a mental makeover.

One other reason why we continue to walk in our old ways, even though scripture screams we are new creations, stems from the fact that either we don’t realize that we are new creations or we don’t believe it. Perhaps this needs a bit of clarification.

The Church as a whole has been expert at preaching the gospel of the blood and forgiveness of sin. Christ died as a ransom for many and, even though we don’t deserve it, we can now come into God’s presence as if we were spotless. As great a message as this is, it only half the story. Yes, Christ won our forgiveness but he also did something else. He won our victory over our sin and our sinful nature. Go back and review Romans 5-8 to get a true picture of all this.

By his resurrection and his ascension Christ has made possible, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, our sanctification, meaning, we are now operating under a new set of circumstances, with the Holy Spirit working inside of us. Many Christians are unaware of this reality for two primary reasons: first, the vast majority of believers are biblically illiterate. Recent studies by George Barna more than bear this out; and second, pastors typically preach more about the blood than they do the resurrection, the ascension, and our subsequent empowerment.

Other Christians are aware of the fact that they are new creations in Christ, but just don’t believe it. This is a tragedy because just the act of believing what scripture says about us goes a long way toward helping us to manifest this new reality in our lives. Look at it like this: we receive salvation by accepting Christ’s atonement by faith; why don’t we also accept the second half of the gospel by faith? Why don’t we, using our faith in all that Christ has accomplished, accept the gift of our own progressive movement toward receiving the “fullness of Christ?”

In essence, a big part of our problem as Christians is the fact that we sell ourselves short. We don’t understand who we are and what we are in Christ. Even more devastating, we don’t accept and apply our new identity to daily living and we end up only being marginally effective. Like the Tibetan Bear, we pace back and forth in the same old ruts, the same old worn out ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. If we continue to do this and expect results any different than what we have experienced in the past, we are sadly mistaken.

No, my friends, it is time for a change and that change begins with recognizing, understanding, accepting, and applying the blessed gifts of being “in Christ.” I encourage you to not put this off another day. Start today by taking a few minutes out of your schedule, sitting down and getting quiet and centered, and ask God to reveal to you the full understanding of your status as his child. Ask God to show you, especially in scripture, just what Christ accomplished for you in his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his successful mission into this world.

Begin a personal Bible study in which you explore this whole business of being “in Christ.” Keep a notebook handy and jot down your thoughts, insights, and ideas. They may be useful reminders as you move forward in the process of appropriating your new identity.

In closing, let me recommend a couple of books for you. The two titles are, Victory Over Darkness and God’s Power at Work in You. Both of these great books are by Neil Anderson, noted author and teacher. By and large, much of Anderson’s teaching is a bit too conservative for my taste. However, I can say without reservation that he has done perhaps the best job of spelling out the reality of our new identity in Christ that I have ever encountered. Further, he does an excellent job in detailing things that we can do to appropriate that identity and make it a day to day reality. Another title by Anderson, Bondage Breaker, is also very good.

© L.D. Turner 2008/ All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Demon of Complacency

L. Dwight Turner

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

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

We have met the enemy, and it is us.

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

I am talking about Christian complacency.

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

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

I think there comes a time in the Christian walk of faith when individual believers make a choice to go no farther with Christ. Let’s face it, Christ has called for such a radical transformation of character and world view, to fully follow his teachings would be suicide, given the realities of our post-modern world.

“Taking up the cross and following Him is not the same now as it was back in the day,” a friend of mine once said. “If I really did what Jesus said to do, I would wind up the poorhouse along with my whole family. I love Jesus, but hey, I am not an idiot. All in all, I think He understands.”

There is really nothing wrong with this logic. The problem lies in the fact that once we begin to make this compromise, a dozen more usually follow in its wake. Listen, my friend, to follow Christ in our day and time is suicide. And guess what? That’s how it’s supposed to be.

What is suicide? In a very real sense it is a voluntary death. And what is it that Christ asks us to do? We are to take up our cross and die daily. Each day, we are to undergo a voluntary death. That doesn’t mean that we literally attempt to end our lives. Heaven forbid. No, it means that we place the demands of our ego, our lower self, our flesh, on the cross. They die with Christ so that we may be raised up in new life. It cost quite a bit to be a Christian and this faith is not for the weak of mind or faint of heart. It takes a real hero to be a true Christian.

The question before us, and the antidote to the complacency that like a leech, is sucking the very life out of the church, involves each of us on an intimately personal level.

The ultimate question facing Christians in this difficult but exciting age is a question each believer must answer individually. Will you take on the yoke of Christ in all its implications and allow him to live and fulfill his mission through you? Recognize that this question involves taking an assessment of the true costs of discipleship. Yes, God’s grace is freely given but real discipleship comes with a price. And in the end, my friend, that price is yourself. How each believer answers this ultimate question will determine how effective the church will be in its mission. Dallas Willard remarks:

So the great issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or by culture, are identified as “Christians” will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of Heaven into every corner of human existence. Will they break out of the churches to be his Church – to be, without human force or violence, his mighty force for good on earth, drawing the churches after them toward the eternal purpose of God?

If you think about it, the words of Willard are both motivational and frightening. Yes, most of us want to be true disciples of the Lord. We all want to learn from him and profess the willingness to do whatever he requires for the furtherance of his kingdom. However, do we really want that? Are we really willing to go to whatever lengths it requires of us? The question before each and every one of us is fairly simple to comprehend.

In my daily life, where the rubber meets the road, how far am I willing to go?

Each of us must settle this matter for ourselves. It is ultimately between the Lord and the individual believer when it comes to answering this vital question. However, our individual answers, taken collectively, largely determine the nature, the character, and the future of the church as a whole.

I am not trying to be fanatical here. I am not saying that unless you go all the way, you are not what God wants you to be. If that were really the case, I would be the first to admit that I would be toasted and toasted quickly. I think what Jesus is asking is, “How far will you go given your current circumstance?”

Also keep in mind, to avoid answering the question is to answer it. God, however, sometimes refuses to allow some of us to rest unless we answer this vital query. I know in my own life, whenever I avoid God for any length of time, particularly something he wants me to do that I don’t want to do, I can make Jonah look like a piker. Still, the Lord indeed comes after me and, in the final analysis, I am grateful.

If my own experience is a valid indicator, it seems that most of us come to a point in our Christian walk where we are confronted with the reality that things are not as they should be. On a surface level, we may be struggling with a persistent sin or shortcoming; on an emotional level, we may find ourselves wrapped up in a cloak of despondency, bitterness, or guilt. Whatever the surface manifestation, however, if we really take a look at what is going on and if we have the backbone to be brutally honest with ourselves, we find there is a deeper struggle occurring. More often than not, that struggle is between that still, soft voice calling us to move forward in our journey of faith and that other voice of complacency, which tells us that stepping out into the territory of the unknown can be a dangerous affair – at best unpredictable, at worst, downright terrifying. The late Brent Curtis and his co-author John Eldredge describe that voice we often hear in the dead of night:

The voice often comes in the middle of the night or the early morning hours, when our hearts are most unedited and vulnerable. At first, we mistake the source of this voice and assume it is just our imagination. We fluff up our pillow, roll over, and go back to sleep. Days, weeks, even months go by and the voice speaks to us again: “Aren’t you thirsty? Listen to your heart. There is something missing.

Indeed, my friend, that still, small voice calls us to the grand adventure. It calls us to get up off our seats, step out of our comfort zones, and walk forward in the light of Christ. It calls us to become His partner, to share his mission, to challenge the status quo, just as He did. Yet his calling is a high calling. It is a high honor, but does come with a price tag. The price tag for most of us is, first of all, getting past any sense of complacency and satisfaction with things as they are.

The call of Christ is without a doubt counter-culture and has no association with maintaining the status quo for the sake of personal comfort. The call of Christ is a grand calling, but to follow Him is to guarantee a degree of daily discomfort. I have always loved these words by Houston Smith, so much so that I will give them to you in there entirety. I think Smith speaks clearly about what the call of Christ entails:

…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 would encourage you to set aside some time each day, or as often as possible, for the next two weeks and just spend time alone with these words from Houston Smith. Pray about these words and what they mean to your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you about Jesus and how these words relate to Him and how they relate to you. The Holy Spirit will answer you. It is, after all, in his job description.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Devotion for Christian Optimists

L. Dwight Turner

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28 NLT)

If ever there was a reason for Christians to be optimistic it is the promise recorded by Paul in this powerful scripture. The Apostle nestled this verse in the context of a number of other verses towards the end of the eighth chapter of Romans, all of which point toward the central reality that, as Christians, we really have every reason to rejoice and celebrate, whatever our circumstance. The unfathomable intelligence that forged this incredible universe and arranged all the subtle, complex laws that keep it in perfect balance, has also orchestrated the events of our lives to also work in our ultimate favor.

I don’t think this means that God planned everything that happens to us. Our own wrong choices many times get us into trouble. But Paul is telling us that even then, and even when disaster and tragedy strikes, God can use the results of our bad decisions, the results of tragedy, loss, and disaster, to ultimately work for our greatest good. In light of this reality, optimism is not only logical, it is unavoidable.

Lord, I know that you go before me, making my way both perfect and positive. I now take refuge in the serene peace and complete assurance that you are, indeed, devoted to the unfolding of my greatest good, even when I can’t see it. And I also am aware that this is your promise to all who love you and who are called to your purpose.

Father of Lights, I also am aware that each person you place before me is the person you are calling me to love at that moment. I am deeply aware that, just as you direct all things to work for my ultimate favor, I am to love the person before me in the same way. Therefore, I commit all my thoughts, actions, and plans to the unfolding of the greatest good of the persons you bring before me today. I am created in your image, Lord, and as your love directs you to bring out the best in me, I am also committed to bringing out the best in those you place in my path.

I thank you Lord for giving me the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be able to accomplish what I cannot do on my own, and I thank you for making all things work toward my greatest good. In Christ’s most Holy Name…..Amen.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Christian Identity and Holistic Optimism: Radical Acceptance

L. Dwight Turner

One of the key principles that we emphasize here at LifeBrook is the importance of optimism. The reasons for stressing the development and maintenance of an optimistic outlook on life are many, but perhaps the most important benefit of optimism is obvious.

Optimism is the womb of hope.

More significantly, as Christians, we have every reason to be optimistic. God has given us, through his grace and love, everything we need to live a complete, fulfilling, and rewarding life. Further, the Bible tells us repeatedly that we are now wholly redeemed and acceptable to the Father and that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. In and of itself, that should be enough to allow optimism to works its roots deep into the soil of our hearts. Moreover, in Romans Paul reassures us that all things work for our benefit, even if we are sometimes blind to the fact.

In brief, God accepts us and blesses us. So, why is it that many of us have trouble fully accepting this free gift of grace? Why is it that a significant number of God’s family displays such a negative mindset? Why is it that church pews are often filled with people wearing either plastic smiles or, even worse, displaying such a sour countenance that visitors might think these folks had been baptized in vinegar instead of water?

Perhaps the problem stems from the fact that many of us, deep down in our spiritual hearts, just don’t believe that we have really been accepted. If we are among that number, our situation is such that we are actually rejecting the very gospel we proclaim.

A renowned Christian theologian, I think it was Paul Tillich, once said that the key to the whole Christian gospel was the fact that we are accepted by God. In fact, he went on to say that the way to appropriate God's grace was to accept that we are accepted. I am no theologian and, at best, possess a second or third rate mind. But I am capable of comprehending the truth of this statement. We cannot begin the spiritual journey as outlined by Christ until we accept the gift of grace. And the most fundamental aspect of accepting God's offer is to accept that we are accepted. Yet many Christians don't seem to get this point. In fact, in their broken, weak state they can't fathom that they are in any way acceptable to God. Something is wrong here. Very wrong.

The crown jewel in the center of the Christian message is that the lowliest, neediest, and most broken people are accepted if they have faith in Christ. Just take a look at the kind of people he chose to hang out with when he was on earth. He associated with thieves, lepers, tax-collectors, prostitutes, cripples, paupers, and even a woman married five times. It now strikes me as absurd to think that I, even with my hang-ups, sins, shortcomings, and defects of character, am beyond the loving pale of God's grace. However, many people both within and outside the church feel they are unworthy of God's grace and thus reject the gift that was designed for them in the first place.

Consider the familiar story of the Prodigal Son as told by Christ in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. We are so familiar with this tale of a wasted life saved through love and redemption than we often loose the impact that it should have on our lives. Especially if we are wastrels and rogues like the wandering Prodigal. Perhaps more than any other passage in Scripture, the parable of the youngest son of a wealthy landowner illustrates the incomprehensible, counter-intuitive love of God. Brennan Manning speaks succinctly about the Prodigal in all of us and God's incredible acceptance:

“When the prodigal limped home from his lengthy binge of waste and wandering, boozing, and womanizing, his motives were mixed at best. He said to himself, "How many of my father's paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of Hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father". (Luke: 15:17-18). The ragamuffin stomach was not churning with compunction because he had broken his father's heart. He stumbled home simply to survive. His sojourn in a far country had left him bankrupt. The days of wine and roses had left him dazed and disillusioned. The wine soured and the roses withered. His declaration of independence had reaped an unexpected harvest: not freedom, joy, new life but bondage, gloom, and a brush with death. His fair-weather friends had shifted their allegiance when his piggy bank emptied. Disenchanted with life, the wastrel weaved his way home, not from a burning desire to see his father, but just to stay alive.”

Yet even with these mixed motives, borne as much from desperation as from contrition, the wastrel was accepted by his father and a celebration ensued. Of course it is best if we respond to God's offer with a pure, contrite heart and full acknowledgement of our failure and powerlessness. Yet how many of us are actually capable of this? Not many I suspect. I know I am not. But God accepts our response to his offer in spite of our conflicted hearts and spirits. In fact, if one is to believe what Christ teaches in the parable of the Prodigal, then he in accepts our desperation just as much as he accepts our repentance. This is truly “radical grace.”

So what is our response to what God has done? What are we to do if we truly and sincerely want to partake of God’s marvelous offer to accept us, love us and empower us to be better people? What are we to do if we genuinely desire to become Children of the Light? First, we should deeply reflect on just what it is that God has done through Christ and what He is continuing to do through the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit. Brendan Manning again puts it in cogent and moving words:

“We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that he should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at his love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.”

Just how do we go about accepting this radical offer made by God? We just accept it. It is really that simple. There is no great mystery here, no elaborate initiation rites, no secret oaths or pledges. We just accept it because God offers it. We accept it on faith and leave God to work out the details and understanding later. The comfort we find in accepting God's love comes after faith, never before it. Remember, it all begins with and hinges on faith.

Christians seem to have an uncanny knack for taking simple truths and complicating them through debate, dogma, and doctrine. The “Doctrine of Grace” is one thing; the reality of God’s grace is quite another. It is freely offered to all who would humble themselves enough to receive it. I suspect that each of us has his or her own way of resisting God’s grace. Some of us, as mentioned above, feel we don’t deserve it; some of us are too prideful, feeling that we can fix ourselves on our own; others think the concept of grace is just too simplistic. Whatever our reasons for struggling with this basic Christian principle, until we resolve our conflict, we will not advance very far on the spiritual journey.

I can attest to this fact from my own experience. Paul says that the idea of “Christ crucified” as the means of salvation would be foolishness to the Greeks. Well, for many years it was foolishness to me. I much preferred the complexity of Buddhism and Hinduism, or the sanity of New Thought. Still, somewhere down in the pit of my being, the Hound of Heaven was chewing on me. God was unrelenting in his pursuit of me and I, like Jonah, headed for the hills more than once. Still, God’s grace kept surrounding me and I could not escape. In fact, I came to treasure the comforting feeling of being surrounded by God. Finally, I accepted that I was accepted.

Once I stopped running; once my struggles with God came to a halt, it was like a whole panorama of spiritual reality opened before my eyes, including a deep sense of optimism and hope. As a result, I began to view the world, including its problems and pain, with a greater degree of compassion and a genuine desire for healing involvement.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, I came to understand at a deeper level that I was in fact accepted. Accepted in my weakness because this is where the strength of Christ is seen. Accepted in my brokenness because this is where the healing of Christ is seen. Accepted in my faithlessness because this is where the fidelity of Christ is seen. Accepted in my wandering in the wilderness because this is where Christ's true and stable mansions are eventually discovered.

© L.D. Turner 2008/ All Rights Reserved

Christian Identity and Holistic Optimism: Positive Mindset

L. Dwight Turner

Here at LifeBrook International we have as part of our ongoing mission statement to provide publications, materials, and programs to assist individuals and organizations to:

Become the optimal version of themselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

After many years working with people that are sincere about living a life of excellence we have discovered many interesting things about what works with people and what doesn’t. Further, by the grace of God, we have been given enough wisdom to weed out those elements that are non-productive and, in contrast, strengthen those elements that seem to be beneficial.

Today, I want to talk about two principles that we have found that are absolutely essential if you want to make positive changes in your life and grow toward becoming the person God designed you to be, wants you to be, and equipped you to be. It goes without saying that there are more than two principles involved in our spiritual growth, but in the context of this brief, two-part article, let’s limit our discussion to a pair of principles that are foundational. These are: Positive Thinking and Open-Mindedness.

Let’s briefly explore the first principle, which can be stated this way: thought is the ancestor of action. What we do begins in our thoughts and eventually is translated into our actions. In light of this fact, if we truly wish to develop our capacities, grow more consistently with fluency and grace, and live more effective and productive lives the place we must begin is with our thinking. The formula is really quite simple. Positive thoughts translate themselves into positive actions. Negative thoughts translate into negative actions. Positive actions, in turn, promote growth and development. Negative actions result in wasted effort, stagnation, and lack of fulfillment.

The good news in all of this is that we are masters of our own destiny in regards to improving the level at which we live. Of course, all of us have natural limitations to our talent. However, the fact remains that we can stretch that talent much farther just by believing in ourselves and trusting that we have as a divine partner, a dynamic Spirit that will come to our aid.

Let me repeat the statement, "thought is the ancestor of action". In applying biblical principles of spiritual growth we must keep this principle before us at all times. You learn to live the way you want to live when you learn to think what you want to think. It all starts in the mind. Granted, there are many things in the world that you cannot change through your thinking. But the one thing you can certainly change is yourself! So start with yourself. If you want to improve yourself remember:

Create your own positive thought and you become what you desire to become because the truth of the matter is that your thought creates your experience.

Let me repeat, it is your thoughts that determine your attitudes and it is your attitudes that determine your actions. The great American President Thomas Jefferson said it far better than I can:

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

More than anything else, becoming the optimal version of yourself requires a positive mental attitude at the outset. Without it, failure is guaranteed.

Attitude is everything. The fact is that we often defeat ourselves before we begin a project or pursue a goal. The cause of this self-defeat is negative thinking. In order to grow and develop we have to embrace a more positive outlook on life. We must incorporate into our being the firm belief that I can if I think I can. It really is as simple as that. Base your life on this belief and you will see miracles happen every day!

I think it is tragic that many people fail to utilize simple, spiritual principles because of just that: they seem too simple. I remember reading in the autobiography of Robert Schuller an episode regarding this issue. Shortly before he was due to graduate from seminary, young Robert had the opportunity to go to a lecture being delivered by Norman Vincent Peale. Being the brilliant young theologian that he was, Schuller relates that he felt this would largely be a waste of his time because Dr. Peale was “too simplistic.” Schuller had just completed his major graduation paper, had studied deeply in arcane theological texts, and figured he pretty much knew all there was to know. Certainly, someone who wrote things as superficial and trendy could have nothing to say that would be meaningful to someone as deep as he was.

After the lecture by Dr. Peale, Schuller and his classmates joked about how shallow the message was and, like all good young students of religion, believed they were just far too sophisticated to be bothering with such petty lectures. My, how interestingly God works sometimes.

Schuller ended up receiving mail outs from Peale’s ministry and, to make a long story short, something Peale said hit Schuller right between the eyes. Eventually, Robert Schuller in a sense became Peale’s successor. And more amazing, Schuller began writing the same kind of simplistic books that Peale did. I recall that back in the early ‘70’s, when I first read Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking I believed it was far too simplistic, sophomoric, and a complete waste of my time. After all, I had two Bachelors Degrees, a Masters Degree, and was working on a second Masters Degree. The pop psychology offered up by Schuller was far beneath my great intellect. Now I know better, thanks to the Lord. I’ll get back to Dr. Schuller in the second part of this article. For whatever reasons, Robert Schuller is a controversial figure among Christians. I find this an unfortunate reality, but a reality nonetheless. Like I said, more on this later.

One of the greatest lessons that I have learned in my life, and learned with great difficulty I might add, is expect the best and the best will come to you. Get out of all your old negative habits of thinking and be open to new, positive patterns of affirmation. Develop a joyous and optimistic outlook on each day. Fall in love with life and live it fully. Above all, develop the habit of positive thinking. Believe in yourself! Believe in your abilities! Be confident! Be Proactive! Take the following affirmative words, by Robert Schuller actually, and plant them deep within your mind:

I am!
I can!
I will!
I believe!

This may seem very simple and, in fact, it is. Yet it is this very simplicity that makes positive thinking so powerful and profound. If you don't believe, try it out for six months and see what happens. In fact, why don’t you, the reader, do that. Do a bit of research on simple practices like positive thinking. Work with affirmative prayer, praying the scriptures according to the positive themes contained in the Bible, and pray for the Holy Spirit’s assistance in helping you to think more constructively and optimistically. Give it six months and see what happens. The results will astound you!

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Christian Identity and Holistic Optimism: Enjoying Life

L. Dwight Turner

Chuck, a good friend and denominational brother, and I met during our junior year in college and, although our paths have led us to different parts of the world at times, we have always maintained contact over the years and see one another whenever we get a chance.

Back in November of last year, I had the opportunity to visit with my old friend when he came back to this part of the country to teach a week-long workshop for local church administrators. A long-time believer, Chuck takes his faith quite seriously – in fact – perhaps too seriously. Raised in a strict, legalistic denomination, Chuck carried quite a bit of unnecessary, negative baggage into his adult life and, as a result, has had a difficult time coming to accept the fact that God might indeed want him to enjoy life. What Robert Schuller is to smiling, Chuck is to the scowl. Over the years, I have discovered that my friend Chuck is not alone.

More than a few Christians go through their days as if dark clouds were hanging over their heads and exhibiting a countenance that indicated they began each day being baptized in vinegar. I recall that on one memorable occasion Chuck’s wife Jill bluntly stated that if her husband ever smiled, he would probably sprain his jaw.

Both scripture and common sense screams that this is not what God intended for his children. The Christian life was meant to be a joyous affair instead of an ordeal to be endured. Granted, life will always have its difficulties, but even when we face trials, I believe that God desires that we do so with as much optimism and hope as possible.

Personally, I have come to believe that one of the fundamental keys to a life of Christian optimism is to have positive expectations based on scripture and the integrity of God.

Think about it. In Romans Paul tells us that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. In and of itself, that promise should keep us in a positive frame of mind, even during times of difficulty and trial. In case you are not familiar with this passage, or if you have forgotten it, let’s take a look at what Paul says in Romans 8: 38-39

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NLT)

If we trust God and believe what scripture tells us, then we have every right to be completely optimistic about the present and the future. This is not a false, “pie in the sky” optimism nor is it a Pollyanna style denial of reality. No, this biblical optimism is based entirely on scripture and God’s character. God is a being of integrity and further, he cannot lie. Our optimism is based on the firm foundation of God’s promises and his character.

The enjoyment of life flows from trusting God and, through that trust, to have positive expectations in life. We have every right to believe deep in our hearts that God truly desires our happiness because he is the Father of Lights and we are Children of the Light. Indeed, scripture affirms that God wishes that we “prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2)

This has nothing to do with what has come to be known as the “prosperity gospel.” Here I think John is speaking of the fact that God desires our happiness and enjoyment of life and we proper in life. Yes, this can mean financial wealth, but it can also mean emotional and spiritual wealth. We have every right to expect the best because God wants the best for his children.

John mentions here the fact that our soul prospers. What is he talking about? In brief, as humans we are tripartite beings, meaning that we have three aspects to our being. Just as God exists as a Trinity, in a real sense, so do we. Our three-part make up consists of body, soul, and spirit. The soul consists of our mind, our emotions, and our will. God’s original intention was that our spirit be in the driver’s seat and in direct communication with God. Based on this divine connection, our spirit governed our soul and our bodies. Due to the Fall, this arrangement was distorted and, because of our spiritual death, it became necessary that the soul take up the command of our lives. The results of this, of course, are quite negative and adverse to God’s intentions.

When we accepted Christ into our hearts, ideally the original order of things was restored, at least on a spiritual level. When we live from our spirit (walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh), our soul does indeed prosper and we can enjoy life and expect the best.

Having positive expectations based on scriptural promises, leads to a realistic and practical optimism that impacts all aspects of life. Further, this practical optimism allows us to better enjoy life, even at times when things may not be going as we might desire. We know that God wants our best, he wants us to prosper and enjoy life, and that nothing can possibly separate us from his love. How can we justify anything less than positive expectations? To expect less or to expect the worst is an insult to God in that we do not trust his promises or his character.

I remember saying these things to Chuck across a plate of pasta last November and, at least for a few moments, he did crack a genuine smile. I forgot to ask Jill if his jaw was cramping up on him the following day.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

The Significance of Personal Vision

L. Dwight Turner

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
(Proverbs 29:18)

The great American Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau once said that most men “lead lives of quiet desperation.” How true this was when Thoreau lived in the 19th Century and how true it is today as well. Just look on the faces of people as you see them going about their daily rounds and it is obvious that most people are not leading lives of happiness and fulfillment. In a world of plenty, many people are living in spiritual bankruptcy.

What can cause such a phenomenon? What issues and events go together to create such a sense of desperation and emptiness in so many people who, at least externally, seem to have all the material trappings that make a person happy? The answers to these questions are not simple. Instead, the causes of such a state of affairs is largely multi-faceted. Most contemporary research in sociology and social psychology, however, points to the fact that aimless, unfulfilled people with average or above-average intelligence lack one important ingredient for a successful life: a personal vision.

Never – never- underestimate the importance of having a personal vision.

Having a personal vision is a sacred enterprise and the key to having a fulfilling vision is to see life through “spiritual eyes.” On a practical level, viewing life with spiritual eyes means seeing the big picture. In terms of your personal vision, it means gauging the effectiveness of your actions through the matrix of your personal vision. In essence, you have to frequently ask yourself, “Is this particular course of action in harmony with achieving my vision in life? Will this help me become the optimal version of myself?”

Having a personal vision is important for other reasons. A vision consists of our perception of our particular mission in life and more precisely, defines the specific framework within which we will carry out that mission. Vision gives us a sense of direction, acting like a compass when we lack certainty about our direction in life. In this sense, vision gives us a basis upon which we can make positive and effective choices among various options that might be available to us. A personal vision gives us hope and courage, especially when we are feeling overwhelmed or when we are confronted with difficulties or setbacks.

As more people learn about the significance of developing a personal vision for their lives, an increasing amount of material on the subject becomes available. As with most things we encounter in life, this has a good side and a dark side. The positive benefit is that with more material on developing personal vision available, more people will be able to discover books, articles, and other materials that will help them in achieving their goal. On the down side, with the plethora of available materials, many people are becoming confused about vision. This has happened in large part because different authors use different terms to express their ideas. What one author calls vision, another calls mission and yet another calls purpose.

In order to minimize confusion, let me offer definitions of these terms as they appear in this article. When I talk about mission, I am speaking of a person’s overall personal purpose in life. Vision is the specific form or structure that mission or purpose will take and goals become the sought-after objectives in implementing that vision. This process moves from the macro to the micro – from the big picture to the small picture. For example, let’s suppose your mission is to establish a profitable business. You open a Christian Books and Gifts Store; that’s your vision. You do a market analysis and come to the conclusion that it is reasonable to initially expect to make a small profit, say $15,000, during your first year. That becomes your goal. In this process, your mission or purpose gives birth to your vision and you goals are your specific objectives after implementing you vision.

At LifeBrook we describe a universal purpose that God gives to everyone who comes into this world. This is a “universal purpose,” not a “personal purpose.” We define that universal purpose like this:

To become the optimal version of yourself for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

All we do here at LifeBrook is designed to assist people in succeeding in realizing this purpose in life. It is obvious that in order to accomplish this, we must discover, define, and implement a personal vision.

How do I discover my vision? There is no one way to do this, but one thing is true: Start by discovering your personal purpose. Your vision should then flow out of that purpose. Discovery of our purpose (mission) is intimately tied up with our personal vision. One thing I have discovered over the years about uncovering purpose and vision is this: You have to be creative and think outside the box. At first, don’t discount any idea just because it seems impossible. Often God gives us impossible things to do so that we can discover that we need him to do anything of last worth.

Art Sepulveda, Senior Pastor of the Word of Life Christian Center in Honolulu has written an excellent book entitled, Focus: What’s in Your Vision. In this book Pastor Sepulveda gives the following guidelines for envisioning your future:

Expand your horizons by stretching your imagination

Nurture new ideas

Vote for positive changes with a welcoming attitude

Imagine the impossible

Stay ahead of tomorrow
Invent the future

Operate expectantly

Notice unlimited opportunity

The pastor’s suggestions are first-rate and I would encourage anyone interested in kick-starting the process of discovering their person vision to implement his ideas. I think you will discover that developing vision is not nearly as difficult as you have imagined it to be. The reason for this is that you are not so much trying to invent something that doesn’t exist; instead, you are actually uncovering the outline of something placed in your heart by God before you took your first breath.

Think about it.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Thought: The Ancestor of Action

L. Dwight Turner

What we do begins in our thoughts and eventually is translated into our actions. In light of this fact, if we truly wish to develop our capacities and live more effective and productive lives the place we must begin is with our thinking. The formula is really quite simple. Positive thoughts translate themselves into positive actions. Negative thoughts translate into negative actions. Positive actions, in turn, promote growth and development. Negative actions result in wasted effort, stagnation, and lack of fulfillment.

The good news is that we are fully capable of changing our patterns of thinking. It may take personal effort and persistence, but we can rest assured that progress can be made and change can be realized. We can base this optimistic outlook on both the successful experience of others and on the promises of God contained in scripture.

Thought is the ancestor of action. In our journey to become the optimal version of ourselves, we must keep this principle before us at all times. You will learn to live the way you want to live when you learn to think in ways that are constructive and in alignment with biblical principles. It all starts in the mind. This is why Paul repeatedly reminds us that becoming masters of our minds is essential. The Apostle stresses that our minds must be renewed and that part of this process involves taking every thought “captive for Christ.” Further, we are instructed to think on positive, beneficial themes that flow from the reality that we are “new creations” in Christ.

Granted, there are many things in the world that you cannot change through your thinking. But the one thing you can certainly change is yourself! So start with yourself. If you want to improve yourself remember:

Create your own positive thought and you become what you desire to become because the truth of the matter is that your thought creates your experience.

Let me repeat, it is your thoughts that determine your attitudes and it is your attitudes that determine your actions. The great American President Thomas Jefferson said it far better than I can:

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

Attitude is everything. The fact is that we often defeat ourselves before we begin a project or pursue a goal. The cause of this self-defeat is negative thinking. In order to grow and develop we have to embrace a more positive outlook on life. We must incorporate into our being the firm belief that I can if I think I can. It really is as simple as that. Base your life on this belief and you will have at your command the single-most effective tool for spiritual growth.

Many of you may read this and think, “This all sounds great, but it is just too simplistic. Life is a lot more complicated than that.” Well, both statements are somewhat true. Learning to think in a more optimistic, positive manner is simple in principle. There is nothing complicated about the theory involved here. However, no matter how simple it may seem does not reduce its effectiveness one iota. And, yes, life is quite complicated at times. Rarely are events and situations the result of only one factor, but instead, are combinations of causes. Learning to think in an optimal manner does not deny problems exist, nor does it view life in an overly simplistic way. What optimal cognition does is help us deal with these difficulties and respond to life’s complexities in a more skillful and productive manner.

One of the greatest lessons that I have learned in my life, and learned with great difficulty I might add, is expect the best and the best will come to you. Get out of all your old negative habits of thinking and be open to new, positive patterns of affirmation. Develop a joyous and optimistic outlook on each day. Fall in love with life and live it fully. Above all, develop the habit of positive thinking. Believe in yourself! Believe in your abilities! Be confident! Be Proactive! Take the following affirmative words, often stressed by Dr. Robert Schuller, and plant them deep within your mind:

I am!
I can!
I will!
I believe!

This may seem very simple and, in fact, it is. Yet it is this very simplicity that makes positive thinking so powerful and profound. If you don't believe, try it out for six months and see what happens. The results will surprise you.

In addition to being positive about our potential for personal change, we also need to develop an attitude of openness. By this I simply mean that in order to make progress, we have to do things differently than we have in the past. This, my friend, means we have to encounter change. Many of us avoid change, choosing to stay with the familiar, with the status quo. Unfortunately, if we want to grow we have to change. And, if we want to change, we have to be flexible in our approach to life and open to new ways of doing things.

The one sure thing that can keep a person in everlasting ignorance is a closed mind. To live a life based on spiritual principles is to always strive to be open to new ideas, new concepts, and fresh and invigorating ways of doing things. So often many of us go about our daily rounds, living life in the same routine way and responding to the events of the day in the same old ritualistic ways that we always have. The same is true for our thinking. We think the same kind of thoughts, hold the same views and opinions, and approach life in the same timeworn way that we always have. No matter that some of these behaviors and thought patterns are non-productive and destructive. We cherish them because they are familiar and comfortable. By living this way we never have to stretch our minds. God’s desire is that we realize our potential and he challenges this unskillful, habitual way of being. He encourages us to venture out into new ways of doing things and fresh ways of thinking. We are challenged to look at things from a different perspective and, when we do, we are transformed - changed in a positive way. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it so well:

Man's mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.

These basic ideas may seem a bit new and strange to you, especially if you are a person who has habitually engaged in negative and self-defeating thinking. If you want to be successful you must learn to cast off these habits of negative thought and replace them with a more positive, optimistic, and fresh outlook on life. In short, what you need to develop is a new perspective on things.

Here at LifeBrook we often encounter sincere Christians who ardently desire positive spiritual fulfillment in their lives. It is our hope that you, too, will be motivated to develop a fresh perspective on yourself and your abilities. You will need to let go of old self-limiting ideas about your abilities and learn to see yourself in a more positive and self-affirming light. You will need to come to the realization that you are a unique individual with unique and individual talents and capacity. The truth is, God hardwired you for a specific purpose or mission and he also gave you the software (talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts) to be successful in carrying out that mission. Further, you will need to understand that your mind is an amazing and mysterious treasure that can either be your greatest ally or your worst enemy.

The choice before each of us is whether or not we truly want to change. If we do, it is imperative to walk daily in the process of cognitive renewal. With renewed minds, filled with the positive promises of God and a sincere wish to become the optimal version of ourselves for the sake of others, the possibilities are limitless.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Personal Morality: Finding Your North Star

L. Dwight Turner

Given the spiritual confusion of contemporary society, one thing stands out in stark relief: What we need are more people of character and integrity. Character and integrity begin with our personal conduct and our personal conduct flows from an internalized value system. We need to know and know in depth just what we believe to be right and wrong. Again, this issue is often glossed over in our post-modern world and this is in many ways a tragedy.
Here is a foundational truth: Your value system, your sense of personal ethics, is the foundation upon which your spiritual journey is constructed. Without a system of personal morality, you are building your house on sand.

Having a personal sense of morality is only the beginning. If you don’t act on your value system – if you don’t put it into practice – you are going nowhere. You are like a house divided against itself. You, my friend, cannot stand. If you do not act on your beliefs of right and wrong, you will lack integrity. And without integrity, there can be no integration. Hopefully, you see the connection between these two words.

If we are to make progress in “being formed into the fullness of Christ,” we must have an internal moral compass. We must have a stable, predictable North Star to assist us in navigating the largely uncharted waters of our post-modern culture. In a land where the driving moral principle is “if it feels good, do it,” or “follow your bliss,” acting in accordance with an internalized set of values is almost an alien concept. However, as Christ-followers who are sincere about our calling to be salt and light, we must be firm in our principles and stand fast against the subtle temptations to run with the herd.

Additionally, we must be aware that moral beliefs are the defining matrix through which we interact with our culture. As Christ-followers, we should always follow Christ’s command to love. In the context of the discussion we are now having, this means that even though we may not agree with many of the things we see going on around us, we must react to these things with compassion, love, and understanding. For some in the Church, this seems to be a lost art. We are not called to be moral police. We can take a personal stand in opposition to values and principles we find abhorrent. However, to do so in a belligerent, vitriolic, or violent manner is to reject Christ’s teachings. As members of Christ’s Body, we have to exhibit love above all else. It is through servanthood motivated by love and compassion that we present Christ to our world. These principles are at the core of a biblical value system.

One of my favorite classic western movies is “The Best of the Bad Men.” In this vintage film, most of the famous outlaws of the Old West had managed to come together to pull a bank job. The James brothers, the Daltons, the Youngers…they were all there. Somehow Walter Brennan was a part of the gang, but not a member of any of the outlaw families. Still he played a vital role in the movie.

At one point, two of the bad guys were about to have a gun fight at the bottom of a hill where the gang was camped. Walter Brennan came running down the hill with his six-shooter aimed at both of them. Next, in his unmistakable voice, Brennan told them to back off or he would lay both of them out. To emphasize his point, Brennan then said:

“I ain’t kin to none of ya….and I ain’t troubled by no burdensome scruples.”

The view espoused by Walter Brennan may seem humorous in the context of the movie, but it reflects how many people in our culture have come to see morality. More than a few individuals hold the idea that having internalized values is too restrictive, reduces our freedom, and takes the fun out of life. The fact is, just the opposite is true.

A strong sense of personal values does not restrict our freedom. Instead, it gives us parameters to operate by, facilitates easier decision-making, and, in a sense, helps us define who we are. Values also help us to keep flowing forward toward our goals in life, especially our spiritual goals. Values can be seen as being like the banks of a river; they keep the water flowing toward its destination. Without banks, a river becomes a swamp.

A personal value system serves other positive purposes as well. Each of us it seems is equipped not only with a Sacred Center, but also with a lower center. This lower center is dominated by the ego and its selfish mind set. Paul refers to this part of our makeup as the “flesh.” It is that carnal, self-absorbed portion of our character that, above all else, looks out for Number One. As a result, even the best of us engage in behaviors which are less than stellar.

Speaking of myself, I know that I try to approach life as much as possible from a positive and sacred viewpoint. Still, there are times when I act with selfishness, anger, a mean spirit, and an overall sense of negativity. Having an internalized set of values, a personal moral code if you will, helps me not only identify when I am going off the spiritual rails, it also tends to reduce the frequency with which I behave in a negative manner.

As our world culture moves forward in this new and challenging century, the importance of each individual developing and maintaining an internalized, spiritual value system – one based on inter-connectivity and human compassion – is essential. More to the point, each person has to act on that value system. He or she must be the same inside and outside. This is the true meaning of integrity.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Manifest Your Potential: Keep Your Dreams Out Of The Grave

L. Dwight Turner

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 benefit 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/All Rights Reserved

Biblical Worldview: Myth or Reality?

L. Dwight Turner

Over the last year I have been conducting an informal survey of area pastors, asking a few basic questions regarding whether or not the clergymen believe that the majority of their congregants possess a biblical worldview. The church leaders in question represented a cross-section of denominations here in the Bible Belt. Theologically, these pastors were a mixed bag, ranging from a pair of deeply conservative Church of Christ pastors to a female priest in the Episcopal Church, who described herself as a "Buddho-Episco-Pagan.

The reasons for conducting this informal research was to see if I could get a handle on the relative importance given by area churches to worldview development and whether or not the pastors of these churches felt they were successful. An underlying motivation for the survey centers on the fact that I believe having a solid, biblical worldview is imperative to fostering an effective walk of faith for individual Christians and for the Church to fulfill its mission in the world.
Worldview development is an area that is often overlooked in our churches today. In the more conservative denominations, pastors assume because sermons and church teachings are typically Bible-based, their congregants somehow absorb a biblical worldview by osmosis.

In the traditionally moderate and liberal churches, the problem is different. Although these churches base their services on a passage from scripture, by the time the worship service is completed, the biblical teaching has been long-forgotten, if it was noticed in the first place. The majority of liberal churches, as well as a significant number of moderate, mainline denominations, down play the Bible and fear being viewed as antiquated by the contemporary spiritual seeker. The important factor to note, however, is both conservative and liberal churches seem to have failed in educating their congregants in the fundamentals of worldview development.

One Baptist pastor I interviewed told me that he didn't have to worry about his congregants having a biblical worldview because he "pounded it into their heads twice on Sunday and every Wednesday night." A friend of mine has been a member of this particular Baptist Church for 14 years and, in fact, is a deacon. In my frequent spiritual discussions with my buddy I can safely say that his worldview is far from biblical. Further, he told me that for years he plugs in his CD player when the preacher begins his sermons. When I asked him why he did this he openly replied:
"Personally, I'd rather listen to Steppenwolf that be yelled at for forty-five minutes."

At the other end of the spectrum, the Buddho-Episco-Pagan priest told me that she used the formal Episcopalian Lectionary when designing the content for the Sunday Bulletin, but rarely gave sermons related the scriptures for that day.
"I find that sort of narrow, rigid focus kind of like being in jail," she stated. "I print it because I have to. Personally, I think it is cool if my congregation knows about the Bible, but I don't think it is an appropriate guide for living in this day and time."

Why is a biblical worldview so important? Let's begin with the reality that, whether we are aware of it or not, we all possess a worldview. For most of us, our worldview was formed from an amalgam of sources, parents, teachers, friends, religious leaders, the media, and so on.

Unfortunately, for most of us, our worldview remains an unconscious commodity. Few of us have consciously taken the time to sit down and take a deep look at what we really believe and hold to be true. This is unfortunate because our worldview is the matrix through which we interpret events and experiences, and further, determines how we respond to those events and experiences.
If you are a person that rejects the Bible, then having a biblical worldview is moot. However, if you identify yourself as a Christian, possessing a worldview based on biblical principles is a highly significant matter. It doesn't matter if you are a believer that holds the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant Word of God, or if you have a softer view, seeing the Bible as a human product, but authoritative for Christians. Either way, the Bible should be the foundation of how you see and respond to the world.

Christian researcher George Barna, in his book Think Like Jesus, defines what constitutes a biblical worldview and speaks to its importance:

A biblical worldview is a means of experiencing, interpreting, and responding to reality in light of biblical perspective. This life lens provides a personal understanding of every idea, opportunity, and experience based on identification and application of relevant biblical principals so that every choice we make may be consistent with God's principals and commands.

We live in a fast-paced, complex world which is filled with pressure and characterized by rapidly changing values. Although many people deny the fact, our culture has to a large extent lost its moral compass. Considering these factors, Barna's words ring loudly with urgency, especially for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. It is critical that we recognize, both individually and congregationally, the practical importance of developing and maintaining a biblical worldview. Of even more critical significance is our need to base our everyday choices and actions on that internal compass.

It is incumbent upon the Church to understand the necessity of incorporating discipleship programs focused on worldview development. Without these innovative programs many Christ-followers may continue the recent trend, borne out by Barna's research, of incorporating the views of the dominant culture and becoming indistinguishable from the non-Christian population.

As the Body of Christ moves forward in the new century, it is increasingly imperative that the Church redouble its discipleship efforts, inaugurating educational efforts to foster a worldview based on biblical principles in all of us who call ourselves Christian. Without a biblical worldview, the Church universal cannot carry out its mission to bring the kingdom of God out of the spiritual realm and set its foundation securely on the earth.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved