Thursday, December 17, 2009

Today's Encouraging Word

Often we allow ourselves to accept limitations in our lives that have no business being considered, much less accepted. At the risk of sounding like a cliché, let me just say that as Christians we need to “dream big.” The God we worship is a big God and he places dreams in our lives that reflect the mission he has given us to accomplish. And it stands to reason that a big God is going to plant big dreams. Scripture tells us that with God, all things are possible. With the preceding thoughts in mind, never discount a dream just because it seems too big. At least take the time to evaluate that big dream, talk to trusted friends about it, and above all, take it to the throne in prayer.

And please, keep two more thoughts in mind when evaluating your dreams. First, God will never give you a dream and not equip you to realize it. He is not in the business of planting empty fantasies in our minds. If you are dealing with a dream, vision, or mission from the Holy One, he will give you the talents and spiritual gifts to bring that vision into manifest reality. And secondly, also consider this. If a dream seems too big to be possible, there is a good chance that God is giving you that dream. Why do I say such a thing? It’s simple, really. God only plants dreams that are impossible to accomplish under our own power. Scripture teaches over and over again that we are to depend on God for all things, so it stands to reason that he will only give us dreams that require his partnership in order to realize.

Erwin Raphael McManus

(from Wide Awake)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Time to Become Who You Really Are

L. Dwight Turner

In the Christian’s journey of faith it is foundational to understand the following biblical principles before we travel very far down the road of spiritual formation:

God has provided everything we need in order to develop and evolve spiritually. It seems he has done this in ways that are highly mysterious but also highly effective. One way of looking at it is that he has provided all that we will ever need on the spiritual level and also he has provided, through the person of the Holy Spirit, the power we need in order to contact these spiritual blessings and bring them down from the spiritual world and into manifestation in our daily lives.

Once we understand this fundamental reality, the logical questions now center on what our responsibilities are in this process. Some advocates of the “everything is by grace” school would insist there is nothing we can do to grow in the spiritual life, but even a minimal check of the reality of the situation would prove that position untenable. There is plenty for us to do as the process of our spiritual development, what is called our “sanctification,” is a joint venture.

Our part in this is first, to place ourselves into a position of receptivity and obedience. We can increase receptivity by practicing the classical spiritual disciplines, especially meditation, prayer, lectio divina, and contemplation. In terms of obedience, we do not need to make this process overly complicated. Most of God’s will for our lives in revealed in Sacred Scripture, but many of us ignore this aspect of obedience by looking for God’s “specific will,” which is fine, but can also be an exercise in self-absorption.

The other aspect of practical Christianity involves advancing God’s kingdom through service to others. That service, motivated by compassion and fueled by kindness is our main task. If we are to be truly obedient, we start right here.

So you see, here we have three aspects of practical faith before us:


The fourth element I might add to this is Sacred Character. The formation of sacred character is the goal of any path of spiritual formation. Sacred Scripture informs us that we have the mind of Christ and few of us it seems realizes just what a blessing this is. In addition to our own mind, we have operating in us the same mind that operated in Jesus when he walked the earth. We find that mind through quieting our own internal chatter enough to encounter Sacred Silence. The disciplines of meditation and especially contemplation are highly important here. It is through the transformative encounters we have with Sacred Silence and our Inner Light that the foundation stones for our journey of spiritual formation are laid. Encouraged by our increasing contact with the Divine Source, we are better equipped to walk boldly in the world and deal with the vicissitudes of life.

Sacred Character is synonymous with moral integrity. We know who we are, how we are supposed to live, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, we live consistently with those values. Sacred Character means that we have a highly developed, internalized worldview and concomitant value system and that we live accordingly. In this way, Sacred Character becomes a bridge that connects our receptivity and our obedience with our service to the world. Here, then, we have the dynamic of our four responses to God’s grace and equipping:


If we seek a workable model of a person who integrated these four aspects of a dynamic relationship with the Father, we need look no further than Jesus. If ever a person was receptive and obedient to God, it was the Master. A deep, abiding sacred character was also evident in all Jesus said and did. And as far as service is concerned, Jesus gave us a great example in the 13th chapter of John when he introduced the disciples (and us) to the ministry of the towel.

I am certain you are aware of Paul's idea, repeated in one way or another throughout his correspondence with the fledgling churches, of the relationship between Jesus and God. Paul tells us that all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Christ, which meant that God and Jesus were in some mysterious way the same being. In the Jewish culture of his day, Paul was making an incredible claim here. Jews were not supposed to make any image of God and even to speak his name was considered a capital offense. Now, here was Paul echoing Jesus by implying that the great and mighty Jehovah was in essence a loving, creator who was not only the Father of Jesus, but was also Jesus himself. And the reverse was true. Jesus was not only a great teacher and a skilled Rabbi; He was not only a great healer and the leader of a band of shady-looking disciples; Jesus, according to Paul, was Jehovah Himself.
Standing alone, that sort of statement was enough to give the High Priest a major migraine.

Paul, however, wasn't finished. In fact, he was just getting started. If you take a look at Ephesians 3:19, the Apostle tells the early church members that he prays "that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (NSRV) Here Paul was pulling no punches; instead, he went straight for the knockout. Paul basically was saying that he prayed for and believed that, as Christians, the new believers were expected to become like Jesus.

No wonder the religious establishment saw Paul as a dangerous, if not demented, man. Equating Jesus with God was a reach. Saying that a human being could become like Jesus was beyond the pale of comprehension and acceptability.

Yet is precisely the character of Christ that we are charged to develop within ourselves. In order to accomplish this great mission we have a divine partner in the Holy Spirit and our Christian brothers and sisters for power, guidance, and support. An open, honest relationship with the Holy Spirit is where we must place our energies at this time, even though much confusion and lack of knowledge about the Holy Spirit exists. We are told by Jesus that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is where we are to focus our efforts for learning and guidance. Unfortunately, many of us refuse to get too close to the Spirit, as we operate primarily out of fear and ignorance.

Part of our process of appropriating the divine gifts already provided by God in the spiritual realm involves claiming them. This process is not so much “name it and claim it” as often espoused in the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” but does involve a similar principle. We are not claiming something that is not rightfully ours, but instead, we are claiming the free gifts of grace provided to us and for us as joint heirs with Christ. In this sense, we do “name and claim,” – we name and claim what scripture tells us we should name and claim. In fact, if we fail to claim these free gifts of God’s grace we are, in essence, rejecting much of what Christ achieved on our behalf.

One other aspect of this also needs to be mentioned. By naming and claiming the gifts of character that are rightfully ours by virtue of our new status of being “in Christ,” we are not pushing God to act in our behalf and do our bidding. Instead, we are recognizing, accepting, and appropriating what God has already done through Christ. This may seem to be a subtle distinction, but it makes all the difference in the world. By recognizing and claiming our scriptural status as new creations in Christ, we are exercising our faith in God and praising him for what he has already accomplished.

Unlike the prosperity preachers, we are not turning God into some sort of cosmic bellhop who fetches at our command. Instead, by claiming his free gift of a new heart, a renewed mind, and a transformed character, we are recognizing God for what he is, a loving Father who has provided everything we will ever need to live the kind of life he desires for us.

As new creations in Christ, we are blessed indeed.

© L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Today's Encouraging Word

He who is within us urges, by secret persuasion, to such an amazing Inward Life with Him, so that, firmly cleaving to Him, we always look out upon all the world through the sheen of the Inward Light, and react toward men spontaneiously and joyously from this Inward Center. Yeild yourself to Him who is a far better teacher than these outward words, and you will have found the Instructor Himself, of whom these words are a faint and broken echo.

Thomas Kelly

(from A Testament of Devotion)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jettison the Negative: It's Time to Shake and Shine

L.D. Turner

Starting with Freud and moving forward in its history, the practice of psychotherapy and counseling has had a morbid preoccupation with the past. Although there are doctrinal differences between many of the schools of psychology, a majority of these systems operate under the belief that by dredging up the issues in one’s past, a person can gain valuable insight into how and why they behave the way they do in the present.

The industry of “insight psychotherapy” continues to be highly popular, not to mention profitable to those who practice it. For what its worth, however, I personally believe that lasting change and personal transformation is a rarity in insight psychotherapy. I should also say that as a counselor, I practiced this form of treatment for more than a few years. I came to the conclusion that clients were far better served with an approach to personal change that was grounded in biblical principles and Cognitive Psychology. I would add to that mix what is now known as Positive Psychology.

These fields of cognitive and positive psychology are more oriented toward the present and the future and one can certainly say that the Bible, although grounded in history, is geared toward spiritual transformation in the here and now.

Other than gaining a degree of minimal insight, nothing positive can be gained from dwelling on our past. I love the analogy that compares our need to look forward rather than backward to an automobile. Cars have a large windshield and a small rear view mirror. It is the same with life. Whereas we need to glance toward the past from time to time, we only need to look briefly, not become riveted. When you are driving, it is much better, not to mention safer, to keep your eyes on the road in front of you. When navigating through your life, the same principle applies, especially when you are dealing with your dreams and visions. The fact is, your dream will be realized in your future, not in your past.

When dealing with negativity, you also have to be proactive. This is especially true if you are dealing with depression, despondency, or discouragement. Get up, get moving, get busy doing something. Above all, don’t sit around moping and ruminating over negative and unproductive thoughts. By doing so, you will only dig yourself into a deeper rut and never forget my friend, a rut is nothing but a grave with the ends kicked out.

If you find yourself stuck in self-perpetuating cycles of negative thinking and chronic discouragement, take a proactive approach and do it right away. Begin by going to the Master in prayer and being open about what you are thinking and feeling. Ask for the Spirit’s help in overcoming chronic negativity and further, ask for an increased sense of boldness and confidence in dealing with your thought life and your emotions. Scripture tells us that we were not given a spirit of timidity, but instead, we have been empowered and equipped with personal boldness, which possesses a great amount of spiritual power.

After prayer, your next step should be one of commitment. Make a firm commitment to God and to yourself that today is, indeed, the first day of the rest of your life. Don’t do this in a slovenly manner, but with all the strength at your command, make a bold (there’s that word again!) commitment that today will be a day that you will someday look back on and see as a turning point in your life.

As an affirmative component of your commitment, begin to speak positive blessings over your life. I am not talking about some pie-in-the-sky “I am a great person” sort of affirmation. No, I am suggesting that you make positive, bold, biblical statements about yourself, based on what God says about you in scripture. If God says something positive about you, then you can bank on it being true. Speak blessings over your life such as:

I take possession of the reality that in Christ I am a new creation; and I can do all things because He strengthens me.

Speak this over your life several times each day and in a month you will see positive changes in how you think, feel, and act. There is great power in giving voice to positive, constructive, biblical statements. Speaking biblical principles is one of the most effective agents of personal change that God has placed at our disposal. Although a number of Christian writers and teachers have put forth theories as to why this sort of positive speaking helps bring about positive results in our lives, I tend to think it is a mystery that no one fully understands. Our lack of understanding, however, does not in any way negate its power. I don’t have a clue as to how electricity works, but I know that when I flip the wall switch, light comes on in my room. Think of speaking biblical principles in the same way. Just do it because it works.

Pastor and teacher Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston gives the following suggestion:

If you will set aside five minutes a day and simply declare good things over your life, you may be astounded at the results. Before you start your busy day, before you leave the house, drive to work, or take the kids to school, take a few minutes to speak blessings over your life…..Always make sure you can back it up with God’s Word. Then get alone with God and take a few minutes every day to declare good things over your life. Remember, it is not enough to read it or merely think about it. Something supernatural happens when we speak it out. That’s how we give life to our faith.

I suggest these steps not only from theory and study, but also from personal experience. Although the Holy Spirit has helped me make great strides in becoming a more optimistic, hopeful person, for many years I operated as if a dark cloud engulfed me everywhere I went. It was only through making a sincere commitment to live in a different way that change began to take place.

I recall finally reaching a point where I was, as they say, sick and tired of being sick and tired. Through exposure to the teachings of Positive Christianity and Cognitive Psychology I came to a workable understanding that my problems began in my thinking and if I wanted to change, that is where I had to start. Further, I came to understand that Satan knows these principles as well and is a master and applying them in an effort to destroy us. I knew I had to take action.

I rented a small cabin on top of one of my favorite mountains in North Alabama and isolated myself from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. I used this time to do several things. First, I consecrated myself to the task of cognitive change and followed this by an extended period of prayer, seeking God’s help and assurance as I began this journey. I spent a good bit of time that weekend reflecting on the patterns of my thinking and how I came to be the way I was. By the time I left the mountaintop on Monday, I was enthusiastic and spiritually ready to tackle my thinking head on.

I can’t tell you that it was an overnight success. The process of turning my thinking around took quite a bit of time and, in some ways, it continues right up until today. Still, through taking positive action, associating with others who were committed to a similar process, and much positive, affirmative prayer, the results in my own life have been highly beneficial.

When applying biblical principles for positive life change always keep in mind that this sort of transformation is a process not an event. By that I mean that change and growth normally takes place incrementally rather than suddenly. It took you many years to develop your negative ways of thinking, behaving and relating. By the same token, it will take time to change.

Have you ever been to a modern zoo, the type where the animals are not caged? Instead, they usually are separated from zoo patrons by either large ditches, small canals, or non-descript fencing. I lived in Miami for 15 years and often visited the zoo, at least in the winter when the weather was not too hot. Whenever I went to the zoo, I could easily spot the animals that had been kept in cages for most of their lives. Now, even with the freedom to roam over a much larger territory, most of them just walked back and forth in an area the size of their former prison. Nothing held them in that confined space except the force of habit.

Even if we are sincere about our spiritual growth, we may often behave in ways similar to these zoo animals. Like the zoo animals, we are now free to choose new ways of living – and a fresh approach to life. Tragically, many of us keep walking in our old familiar ways, even though a new, exciting world awaits us if we progressively allow ourselves to be controlled by our spirit rather than our ego. We know we are on the spiritual path, but we don’t act like it. Instead of exploring fresh and free ways to be salt and light in this world, we just pace back and forth within the confines of the ruts our negative, habitual behaviors have created for us. Positive change will eventually come, just as it does for many of those animals that were raised in cages. However, the process take time.

The key principles here are patience and persistence. Do not become overly agitated when change doesn’t come overnight but instead, let your personal growth into Christ-character proceed along God’s timetable, not yours. And above all, don’t give up. It is critical that you remain proactive in your spiritual practice, especially when it comes to prayer and positive thinking. The enemy will seek to derail you, especially during vulnerable times when progress is slow and unsteady. The key here is to trust God. Believe the Great Apostle when he says:

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

This passage of scripture alone is assurance that God will not abandon you, nor will he forget the restoration project he began in you. It is the will of the Father of Lights that you become a shining likeness of his only begotten Son and Jesus himself said that you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

If you are, indeed, sick and tired of being sick and tired; if you are, indeed, ready to commit yourself to the process of spiritual growth into a replica of Christ-like character, then take that vital step of consecration. You have lived far too long under the thumb of those old destructive patterns of negative thought and behavior. It is time to step our into the light of Christ and begin to live as the optimal version of yourself. It is time to see yourself as God sees you – a positive, spiritual being whom he has given a purpose and equipped with everything needed to realize that mission in life. It is time to realize that you are both salt and light.

My friend, it is time to step into your destiny – it is time to shake and shine.

© L.D. Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Change Your Thoughts / Change Your Life

L.D. Turner

I am convinced that one of the primary lessons that God is bringing to the fore in these challenging days centers on the power of thought. Granted, this is not a new awareness on the part of humanity as teachings on divine thought power have been recorded even in ancient times. However, the widespread emphasis on understanding the role thought plays in helping create the quality of life we experience is relatively new. More and more people are becoming aware of and interested in these mental laws and how to use them.

Even the most cursory survey of recent publications will reveal America’s burgeoning fascination with the power of thought. Go into any major bookstore, search the shelves, and you will see a plethora of titles related to our thought life in general and the potential power of thought in particular. What’s more fascinating is that these books are found in diverse sections, from self-help, to psychology, to personal growth, and even Christianity. What’s going on here?

Many sources attribute this growing interest in our cognitive functioning to the runaway popularity of Rhonda Byrne’s book and DVD entitled, The Secret. Byrne’s book deals primarily with “The Law of Attraction,” which basically states that if you think about something long enough with the right frame of mind, you will see it manifest in your life. Byrne treats the subject from a secular perspective and in a somewhat sensational fashion, however, a review of her book is beyond the scope of this article. The pertinent issue here is: Is the Law of Attraction valid and, if so, does it have positive implications for spiritual development.

My personal answers to these two questions are: Yes and Yes.

First, there is nothing new or “secret” about the Law of Attraction. The notion that somehow there was a conspiracy to keep this and other mental laws suppressed is, to put it frankly, nonsense. The Law of Attraction or its equivalent under other names has been well-known for thousands of years. Buddha asserted, for example, that a man’s life is created by his thoughts. The Advaita School of Vedanta (Hindu) also contains many similar teachings. In the West, Egyptian metaphysical religion and the Greek Hermetic teachings detailed the Law of Attraction as well as other metaphysical principles that have been passed down through the centuries.

During the 19th Century, the New Thought Movement stressed the power of thinking as its major tenet and, within the many schools of that movement, continues to develop similar teachings right up through the present. Science of Mind, Divine Science, and the Unity School of Christianity are but a few contemporary examples of New Thought.

In Christian tradition, the Law of Attraction and associated principles have been seen in such well-known figures as Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. Today, the most significant home of these principles, at least under the Christian umbrella, can be found in the Word of Faith Movement, the fastest growing segment of the church.

From a biblical perspective, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” On one level, what Solomon was getting at was the reality that a person’s consistent thoughts, especially his deepest thoughts (in his heart) tend to define who that person is. On another level, this verse, as well as much psychological research, tends to point to the fact that our thoughts have a magnetic quality, drawing to us the things we think about most. In practical terms, the Law of Attraction boils down to a simple principle: thoughts become things.

Looking briefly at Genesis 1, we can see that God created the world through his thoughts. The biblical text states that the world came into being at God’s verbal command – his words. In a sense, he spoke them into existence. And what are our words? Words are expressions of our thoughts. The Law of Attraction, from a biblical perspective, is related to the fact that we were created in the image of God. In a sense, we possess similar characteristics as those possessed by God. By thinking repeated thoughts they grow stronger, and, according to proponents of the Faith Movement, when we speak them, they grow even stronger. Through repetition, taken with faith in a positive outcome, what we are speaking will eventually come into manifestation.

Whether you believe the teachings of the Faith Movement is not the issue here. The important thing is that we not throw the baby out with the bath water. The Law of Attraction, like the law of gravity, is a natural part of God’s creation. Our capacity to use the Law was placed in us by the Creator and we should use it in accordance with his laws and his purposes.

Unfortunately, many teachers, especially those associated with the Prosperity Gospel, have appropriated the Law of Attraction to be used for the accumulation of wealth. I don’t personally think this is a biblical position, but I am not the sole source of authority on this. You have to evaluate whether or not God wants you to be rich for yourself. The problem here is the fact that many people who are opposed to the message of these prosperity teachers throw out the method because they feel it is being used for material purposes. I believe this is a mistake.

Our thoughts contain creative power and can be of great assistance to us in pursuit of godly character and spiritual development. Further, we can use the Law of Attraction to help bring about the Kingdom on earth. If we have within us a creative power that can help with manifesting God’s desires on earth, then we should use it in his service. The key principle to follow is: make sure you are using it for the betterment of yourself and all creation.

Here at Sacred Mind Ministries, we stress the importance of what we have come to call “Conscious Cognition.” In essence, it is imperative that we become mindful of our thoughts and, as Paul says, take every thought captive for Christ. We stress the importance of positive thinking and positive planning, coupled with positive prayer, to create a meaningful and purposeful life.

There are several factors to consider once you commit yourself to the process of developing sacred character. First, you must realize that transforming character is just that: a process; it is not an event. Character development takes time. Next, you must come to the vital understanding that all personal change starts in your mind. Deepen your awareness of those areas of your thinking where you are controlled by ideas of limitation. God is unlimited in what He can accomplish and, although the human part of you has obvious limitations, the divine part of you is created in the image of God and is unlimited. If you can firmly believe this, you are well on your way to realizing your divine potential.

Let go of limited thinking and come to expect God’s best because that is what He wants for you. He wants you to become the absolute best version of yourself, growing increasingly in the image of Christ. Begin to see the future with faith, hope, and vision. With diligence, let the Holy Spirit help you to create new wineskins of thought. Keep in mind that God can’t pour new, creative thoughts into your old limited wineskins. It is primarily for this reason that Paul stresses the need for tearing down “strongholds” that we have erected in our minds. Viewed from a basic perspective, a stronghold is an almost automatic mental/emotional response that has become a deeply ingrained part of us.

When life presents you with problems, many times there is nothing you can do about it. However, you can have complete control over your response to any problem life sends your way. You can have greater peace of mind if you just choose to have the right kind of thoughts. Focus your entire being on finding solutions, rather than wallowing in the problems at hand.

Work diligently to find your Inner Light, that still, quiet part of your being that serves as the Holiest of Holies where you and God connect. Once you find this sacred sanctuary, continue to take proactive measures to deepen and maintain your contact with this sacred aspect of your being. The more time you spend in “sacred silence,” the better. In addition to reducing stress and helping you to relax, you will also become more centered and focused. Important spiritual traits will begin to flow out of the sacred silence and into your everyday life; traits such as improved concentration and mindfulness, attention to detail, and emotional balance.

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