Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reflections on Godly Goals

I am of the firm conviction that God desires that we live in a way that fosters our spiritual development, increases our capacity to serve others, and instills a consistent sense of hope and optimism for the future. I also am convinced that a primary component of such a mode of living is the establishment and fulfillment of godly goals.

What is a godly goal? A godly goal is one that is first and foremost in line with biblical principles and leads us forward in pursuing the potential and the purpose that the Lord has for our lives. A godly goal acts almost like a magnet, pulling us toward itself, helping us to become more complete individuals possessing both confidence and a commitment to excellence. In short, godly goals enable us to become the optimal version of ourselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Usually you can easily discern whether or not a person has goals in his or her life. A person with clear cut, reasonable, and obtainable goals will demonstrate a sense of direction in life. He will not be seen wandering willy-nilly about in life, going four steps in one direction, then three steps in another. No, an individual with godly goals will know where he is headed, what it is going to take to get there, and will have formulated an energy-efficient plan to arrive at his stated aim.

Recognizing that time and energy is a priceless commodity in today’s hectic world, a person with godly goals wastes neither.

Another quality seen in people with clearly established goals that are biblical and directed toward divine purpose is a sense of excitement. If a person has such a goal, she is usually passionate about it and approaches each day with optimistic excitement, realizing that the day before her will provide opportunities to move closer to the achievement of her goal. It is this very passion that fuels consistent motivation, especially during those times when events may be running counter to plans and expectations.

When I think of the sense of excitement and passion that comes from having clearly defined and obtainable goals in life, my friend Dale comes to mind. Dale is a person who seems to have a boundless supply of energy. Far from manic, Dale’s level of energy is high but it is also focused. In all the years I have known Dale, I don’t think I have ever heard him complain of being tired, overly stressed, or burned out. This is remarkable, considering the pace that Dale often operates at. I once interviewed Dale for an article I was writing for medical students in their first year of studies. In that interview, I asked Dale what was the source of his seemingly unlimited store of energy and stamina. At first he told me that he always approached each day with a sense of meaning and purpose in his life and that God had clearly given him that meaning and that purpose. However, he didn’t stop there.

“Having a God-given meaning and purpose for life is essential,” continued my friend. “But what really motivates me and fills me with positive energy is having clear-cut goals that I am working toward each day. Meaning, purpose, mission…those are all important but they are also abstract. I am the kind of person that needs something I can get my hands around to get me excited. Having those short-term, achievable goals gives me that.”

In short, having goals that are not only clearly defined, but that are also attainable provide us with several important components of a meaningful life. First, they give us direction and purpose. Knowing what we are shooting for allows us to be efficient with our personal energy. Instead of running in five directions at once, we move in a straight line toward our destination. Second, goals give us a sense of excitement and passion in life. We can wake up each day knowing that we are consistently moving toward the achievement of something that is important to us.

Charles Stanley speaks clearly to the fundamental principle that Christians should keep before them when setting goals in life, whether long-term or short-term, great or small:

Every other goal must be placed under this priority goal – to know Christ and to be conformed to His likeness. If you have set for yourself a goal that is not in line with this priority goal, God will not help you accomplish it because He didn’t encourage you to set it. If a goal cannot be placed under this supreme goal of knowing Christ and being formed to His character, that goal is contrary to God’s purposes for your life, and God will oppose you in your attempts to achieve it.

The setting of godly goals should not be such a difficult process, yet many of us make it more complicated than it actually is. A Christian goal, as mentioned earlier by Charles Stanley, is based on the reality that each of us called to be conformed by the Holy Spirit into an increasingly likeness of Jesus Christ. With that matrix as a workable backdrop, we can say that we are to have goals that place us in a receptive position whereby the Holy Spirit can do the work on us that He wants to do. Charles Stanley lists the following generalized Christian goals:

• To walk in the Spirit daily
• To experience the same kind of awesome Holy Spirit power that Jesus Christ experienced
• To serve God in the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power
• To maximize my full potential
• To use all of my talents and abilities in the way God created them to be used
• To fulfill God’s purpose for my life
• To experience and enjoy life to its fullest
• To have a feeling of deep and abiding satisfaction that I have fulfilled God’s goals for my life
• To know the joy that comes in knowing Christ

Returning to a theme mentioned in the initial paragraphs, as Christians we can only expect these positive results from godly goals – goals that are biblical and in line with God’s overall purpose for life. The significance of setting biblical goals should be obvious. By pursuing godly goals we are making every effort to become the optimal version of ourselves. We are, in summation, working toward not only our specific goals in life, but we are also moving toward becoming the best that we can be, all for the glory of God. Here are just a few of the spiritual benefits of working with biblical, godly goals:

We will consistently walk according to the Spirit rather than the flesh.

We will make steady progress toward realizing our God-given potential.

We will utilize our spiritual gifts in effective, Spirit-directed ways.

We will expend our personal energy in an efficient manner.

We will be a vital part of the process of establishing God’s kingdom on earth.

We will experience life to its fullest and enjoy life more.

We will become increasingly optimistic.

Pursuing godly goals that are aligned with biblical principles is the task set before each and every one of us as Christians. Many say that setting and achieving goals is important in life. No doubt this is true, but I think it goes much farther than that. I think setting and realizing godly goals is a mandate for followers of Christ.

Why do I say this? It is simple, really. God has given each of us a unique and vital purpose in life. In order to meet that purpose, I believe it is critical that we become the optimal version of ourselves. If we are to become the best that we can be, we have to set goals and achieve those goals. That way, we not only improve ourselves (with the help of the Holy Spirit), but we also glorify God by becoming all that we can be. Further, we grow into a position where we can be useful servants, working toward making life better for others while, at the same time, bringing God’s kingdom into concrete realization here in this world.

One other aspect of Christian goal setting and personal development should be mentioned and it has to do with the necessity of “stretching” ourselves. Basically, our goals should be ones that force us to grow by increasingly taking steps out of our comfort zones. For example, when I taught English in China I often told my students that they should always seek out conversation partners for practicing English that were slightly better than they were. The reason for this should be obvious. If a student practiced with someone who was at their same level or below, they would never be forced to improve. However, if they consistently practiced with a partner who had skills that were slightly above theirs, they would repeatedly be forced to expand their own skills. Granted, practicing with someone far beyond their language skills was not recommended. However, regular practice with a partner who was only slightly better was a sure way to improve their own skills.

There is an old saying: “Never rest on your laurels.” Basically, this means that we should never be satisfied with what we have accomplished. Reaching a goal is satisfying, but we shouldn’t allow this to be the final act in the play. We must continually press forward toward new goals that will allow us to manifest the best version of ourselves. Also, it is important to keep in mind that we should never focus our mental energy on what it is we think we cannot do. Rather, we should believe in ourselves and always refuse to let what we cannot do interfere with what we can do. By focusing on doing what we can do, and doing it better, we make progress. Moreover, we facilitate our continuing spiritual development by challenging ourselves to reach higher.

Both personal experience and deep study has taught me that the optimal method for moving beyond where we are is by “stretching ourselves.” By this I mean it is highly advantageous for us if we encourage ourselves to move beyond what we are now capable of, even if only to a small degree.
For example, I enjoy playing table tennis. I am far from a great player, but I can achieve some degree of success when I am at the top of my game. (Of course, I played much better when I was younger and my reflexes were quicker.) Early on, I discovered I could not improve my play by competing against players who I could easily defeat. By the same token, I could not get any better by playing against opponents who were my equal. If I wanted to improve, I had to play against competitors who were more skillful than I was. I soon discovered that if I took on players whose skills were slightly above mine, my play gradually but consistently improved. The same is true in terms of realizing our potential in any endeavor. If we want to improve at something, we have to challenge ourselves; we have to stretch ourselves to get to the next level.

Interestingly, we begin this process with the setting of sound, biblical goals. And, it is the continual setting of these godly goals that carries the whole mission forward. In this sense, biblical goals are both a means and an end.

© L. Dwight Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Releasing Negative Imprints

L. Dwight Turner

When a person first discovers the principles and the power of the various spiritual laws the Creator has put at our disposal, he or she is often filled with hope, enthusiasm, and positive motivation. This is both natural and as it should be, because these principles are blessings that God has given us and intends for us to use, especially when we need to make major life changes in general and changes that help us to grow spiritually in particular.

However, all too often this initial burst of enthusiasm is dampened when, despite applying these powerful spiritual principles correctly, the spiritual aspirant seems to obtain minimal results. This can be a frustrating experience, especially for those who are sincere spiritual seekers that want to not only improve themselves, but the world around them. Invariably, however, most of us reach this point when we consistently work with the Laws of Manifestation. Indeed, this can be a highly critical crossroads along the journey of spiritual development. More than a few dedicated seekers have thrown in the towel when this sort of experience begins to repeat itself with regularity. Believe me, I know because I have been there – done that.

What is even more tragic about this situation is the reality that this crisis can be worked through without too much difficulty. All it takes is a degree of awareness regarding the less-than-pristine nature of our subconscious mind and knowledge of the proper prayer tools to deal with it.

The Laws of Manifestation, those principles at play when we work to bring something from the spiritual world into manifestation on the physical plane, would work perfectly all the time if they operated through perfectly pure minds in a perfectly pure world. The unfortunate reality is, however, neither the minds in question nor the world in which they operate are anywhere near pure. We all have subconscious patterns of belief that operate beyond our capacity to control them, largely because we are unaware of them. These patterns of belief can sometimes sabotage our best intentions and, if we want to become more adept at applying spiritual law, we have to deal with these subconscious themes.

Although these subconscious themes can be stubborn at times, I have found that the most direct, effective, and simple method of dealing with these obstacles is through positive prayer. In essence, we apply the principles of affirmative prayer to the very things that seem to be blocking our prayers in the first place. As ironic as it may seem, I have found this to be the most consistently effective tool.

With that said, let me share with you a simple prayer that I use when I run up against the sort of thing we are discussing in this post. If you so desire, give it a try. Like all affirmative prayer, the key is to generate feeling in your prayer and repeat it many times. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were your subconscious impediments and imprints. Likewise, they won’t crumble in a day, either. Here is the prayer:

Releasing Negative Imprints

Through the healing power of the God’s One True Light, I now release all negative imprints and impediments in my body, mind, will, and spirit. I release these personal delusions and they are no longer part of me, nor do they create obstacles to the perfect application of the Divine Laws of Manifestation. I am now cleansed and perfected – I am healed, healthy, happy, and whole.

By the power of the Holy Spirit and in the sacred name of Christ, so it is.


© L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wise Words for Today

Your business is with your conscious mind and not your subconscious mind. Just make sure the thoughts you habitually think are based on things that are lovely, true, just, and harmonious. Begin now to take care of your conscious mind, knowing in your heart and soul that your subconscious mind is always expressing, reproducing, and manifesting according to your habitual thinking.

Remember, just as water takes the shape of the pipe it flows through, the life principle in you flows through you according to the nature of your thoughts. Claim that the healing presence in your subconscious is flowing through you as harmony, health, peace, joy and abundance. Think of it as a living intelligence, a lovely companion on the way. Firmly believe it is continually flowing through you vivifying, inspiring, and prospering you. It will respond exactly this way. It is done unto you as you believe.

Joseph Murphy

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On Servanthood and Being a Living Epistle

L. Dwight Turner

When we look at the life of Jesus, it is quite obvious that he did not see a dramatic division between the sacred and the secular. For Jesus, as it was for Jewish culture in general, the sacred was to be like a canopy that covered all of one’s activities, no matter how mundane. Jesus demonstrated this through his actions, his teachings, and his general demeanor as he went about his business. Paul, who was about as Hebrew as one could get, also shared this lack of a clear dividing line between what was spiritual and what was material or mundane. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the Apostle writes:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

The separation of the sacred from the secular is an aberration that is largely peculiar to Western philosophy. Neither time nor space allows for a detailed explanation of how this distorted and divisive element of the common Western worldview evolved. Suffice to say that it began with the thought of Renee Descartes in the 17th Century, gathered steam in the Enlightenment, and became the absolute, unquestioned norm in the century recently ended.

Fortunately, things are undergoing rapid change as our global culture has brought all parts of the world into more intimate contact. Western philosophy, theology, and even science are now taking a more expansive, holistic approach to spirituality, recognizing that anything can be spiritual if one has the right perspective. Tiellhard de Chardin, a Catholic theologian who was also a gifted scientist, spoke wisely to the point of this issue when he said:

Nothing is profane for one who has eyes to see.

Increasingly, Christian pastors, teachers, writers, and theologians have jettisoned the erroneous teaching of Descartes in favor of a more inclusive perspective as to what constitutes the “spiritual.” Kary Oberbrunner, founder of Redeem the Day Ministries, tells us:

The perceived opposition between Christianity and culture stems from a dualistic, Western worldview that divides life into categories – categories like sacred and secular. Within this view, prayer and evangelism are spiritual activities, while exercise and eating are secular. Christian schoolteachers and missionaries have spiritual vocations, while business people and computer programmers have secular ones. God shows up in spiritual places like church and nature; he is absent from secular venues like sports arenas……This type of worldview is toxic on multiple levels. The theologian Abraham Kuyper recognized these dangers and said, “There is not an inch of the entire domain of our human life of which Christ, who is sovereign of all, does not proclaim, ‘Mine!’”

It should be unnecessary to say that we can be just as valuable to God in the office as we can in the church. We can accomplish tasks and goals that are quite spiritual at the Little League park, just as easily as we can in a Sunday School class. Our “secular” activities in the world are no less spiritual than those of our pastor, a monk, or, if you happen to be Catholic, the Pope.

Perhaps it is one of the enemy’s greatest strategies to keep us in that split and divisive state of mind where we draw an impenetrable line between our spiritual activities and more “worldly” pursuits. It certainly isn’t an idea that you can consistently support with scripture. I can be just as holy bowling with friends as I can be teaching a Sunday School class. I can be just as Christian showing my daughter how to ride a bike as I can be reading the Bible. I can be every bit as much a spiritual person at my desk at work as I can be singing in the church choir.

Christ’s mandate was for us to carry out faith into all out activities, not just a few that our culture has defined as “spiritual.” This is what Paul meant when he said we were to be “a pleasant aroma” and strikes right to the heart of what it means to be a “living epistle.” The bottom line here is that we are called to be followers of Christ and to be a follower of Christ, more than anything else, is to be a servant. The blessing in all this is that the spectrum of servant activity extends from the sanctuary to the street, from the narthex to the neighborhood, and from the holy to the hovel.

Recently, as I meditated on these themes, the Holy Spirit led me to see that in order to be a living epistle, with the teachings of Christ inscribed on my heart, I must first of all be a servant. These days we may much of the concept of leadership and, although competent Christian leaders are needed in all areas of our culture, we also need competent followers – especially Christ-followers. And to be a Christ follower is to be a servant. If you have any doubts about this, check out Matthew 26 where Jesus talks about separating the sheep and the goats.

A living epistle, a Christ-following servant possesses an obedient heart, filled with compassion and motivated toward being a proactive helper in ways great and small. Rarely is this call to servanthood involve our personal comfort, but instead, will often require that we renounce our own priorities and convenience. Listen as Bruce Wilkinson describes the Master’s call to servanthood:

The call to service is rarely a call to convenience, and Jesus’ life of servanthood was not easy. Note how Isaiah describes the role of the Servant-Messiah centuries before Jesus’ birth (Isa. 52:13 – 53:12). Mark frequently describes the difficult life of the servant. You’ll see Jesus interrupted as He spends time in prayer. You’ll feel the eager crowds pressing in to tap His power. You’ll sense His compassion for those in need and His anger at those using traditions as an excuse to avoid serving others. And you’ll sense His resolute commitment to face the cross in spite of its agony and shame. Truly, Jesus is the supreme model of servanthood….Your call as a disciple is likewise a call to servanthood. Do you place your Master’s will ahead of your own? Does your heart respond with compassion at the sight of needy people? Do your actions speak louder than words? Active, compassionate, obedient service to the Master – that’s your privilege today and everyday.

If we are to be living epistles, we are servants in the ministry of the towel, just as Jesus when he washed his disciples’ dirty feet. There is no debate about this calling upon our lives. The only question is to what extent we are willing to respond. Let’s close with Paul’s words to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant….

© L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved