Mick Turner

Author's details

Name: Mick Turner
Date registered: March 15, 2012
URL: http://lifebrook.wordpress.com

Latest posts

  1. LifeBrook: A New Years Prayer — January 1, 2015
  2. LifeBrook: Personal Thoughts on the Passing of Dr. Myles Munroe — December 21, 2014
  3. LifeBrook: Wise Words for Today — December 14, 2014
  4. LifeBrook: Responding to God: Just Keep It Simple — December 4, 2014
  5. LifeBrook: Wise Words for Today — November 21, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. LifeBrook: Spiritual Transformation from a Christian Perspective (Part Two) — 2 comments
  2. LifeBrook: Wise Words for Today — 1 comment
  3. LifeBrook: In Defense of Brian McLaren — 1 comment
  4. LifeBrook: Wise Words for Today — 1 comment
  5. LifeBrook: Spiritual Transformation from a Christian Perspective (Part One) — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Jan 01 2015

LifeBrook: A New Years Prayer

Original post at http://lifebrook.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/a-new-years-prayer-2/


Originally posted on LifeBrook:

Holy Spirit Stained Glass

Holy Spirit Stained Glass (Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble)

Mick Turner

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

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

I affirm that this year, 2015, will be a year of resurrection, renewal, and restoration and I greet this year with enthusiasm, confidence, and passion. This confident passion arises…

View original 122 more words

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2015/01/a-new-years-prayer-3/

Dec 21 2014

LifeBrook: Personal Thoughts on the Passing of Dr. Myles Munroe

Original post at http://lifebrook.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/personal-thoughts-on-the-passing-of-dr-myles-munroe/


Mick Turner

I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts on the passing of Dr. Myles Munroe, who died in a tragic plane crash on November 11, 2014. Dr. Munroe was a tremendous teacher, pastor, and leadership mentor. He will be sorely missed, not only by his congregants in the Bahamas, but by those who were touched by his books, tapes, and teaching.

I include myself among that number in particular. Dr. Munroe’s writings greatly impacted my walk of faith at a time that I was feeling especially vulnerable. The Holy Spirit brought his writings into my life in an unexpected way and part of what follows was also published in an article on LifeBrook back in 2008.

Back in the autumn of 2005, my wife’s business responsibilities necessitated that she make a three-week trip to China. Our daughter Salina was about 18-months-old at the time and Li (my wife) decided to take her along so Li’s parents could meet their new granddaughter for the first time. Although I remained busy with my work responsibilities, I had far more free time than normal during their absence. I figured I would do a bit of relaxing and also devote some time to reading, which is one of my favorite activities.

I visited one of the area book stores a couple of days after Li and Salina departed for China. I was looking for something to read that would be spiritually edifying and I searched the shelves, especially paying attention to what was available from a few of my favorite authors. After spending about an hour doing this, I didn’t really see anything I thought I might want to read. As scanned the shelves yet another time, I saw a book that looked somewhat interesting. It was by an author I was not familiar with at the time and, after discovering that the author appeared to be at least marginally associated with a few Christian teachers that I have major reservation about, I put the book back on the shelf.

For some reason, however, I immediately took it back of the shelf and thumbed through it again. Although I did not hear an audible voice telling me to purchase this book, I did have an undeniable impression from the Holy Spirit to read this book. Having learned from past experience to heed such impressions, I bought the book.

 

It is not an over-statement to say that I was completely absorbed in the book for the next two weeks. I read it straight through in about four days, then went back through it slowly, taking notes and making application of what I had read. This 14-day period proved to be one of those “watershed” times in my life – a time in which I experienced an accelerated growth and a deepening of my walk of faith. I thank the Lord for leading me to this book at just the right time and I also thank him for giving me the discernment I needed in order to benefit from reading it.

The name of the book: Understanding the Power and the Purpose of Prayer by Dr. Myles Munroe.

It is hard to put into words what this book, and later, other titles by Myles Munroe have meant to me in terms of my own spiritual formation and in my work as a writer and teacher. This is all the more remarkable in that I would have probably never picked up one of Dr. Munroe’s books on my own. A mystic at heart and a bit left of center in terms of my theology and my political beliefs, chances are I would have quickly judged the book by its cover and never give it a second thought. Again, I thank God for pushing me out of my theological comfort zone and, like he did with Jonah, insisting that I go to a place I didn’t want to go. In this case, encouraging me to read something I didn’t particularly want to read.

It is also not an over-statement to say that Dr. Munroe has had a major impact on my thinking, my Christian walk of faith, and my spiritual formation. Do I agree with everything he says? No. I have yet to find any author that I am in total agreement with. Do I agree with most of what he says? Yes, I do. In fact, in studying the works of this writer and teacher, I have come to see a number of things in a different light than I did prior to walking into that bookstore back in October, 2005. In a very real sense, Dr. Munroe has been a mentor to me.

I have had the opportunity to hear Myles Munroe in person on four occasions since that time. He is a gifted orator, preacher, and teacher. I have benefited each time I have had the blessing of attending one of his programs. I have met him, albeit only briefly, and also feel blessed by having the opportunity to ask him several questions about issues that I was unclear about. He graciously took time to answer those queries and, in fact, gave me more time than was expected.

The reason all of this has come to my mind is that I recently undertook a review of my last five years and, in doing so, discovered the depth of the impact of Myles Munroe on my life. In doing this review, I looked over my bookshelf at the books that I have read over the past five years and discovered an unexpected fact. In addition to Dr. Munroe’s book on prayer, the first of his books I had read, I have 14 other titles by him in my personal library. It was a surprise to me that I have read that many of his books. I don’t have anywhere near that many books by any other author.

I could go on and on about his teachings, but I think I will just focus on one aspect of his work that has had a major impact on my thought, my faith, and my professional activities. I want to speak briefly on Munroe’s emphasis on “The Kingdom.”

Dr. Munroe has written what eventually came to be known as the “Kingdom Series.” The first book in the series, Rediscovering the Kingdom, was also one of the books that caused me to reassess my ideas about Christ’s mission and purpose. Subsequent titles in the series only deepened that process. The second book was entitled, Kingdom Principles, followed by The Most Important Person on Earth, in which Dr. Munroe discusses his take on the role of the Holy Spirit in the Kingdom. Recently, another volume was published, centering on the application of Kingdom Principles to daily life. I haven’t read that one yet.

For Munroe, everything he teaches is built upon the foundation of the concept of “Kingdom.” Without a thorough understanding of Munroe’s view of the Kingdom, we cannot begin to understand the depth of his teaching.

All that we have discussed before, the principles of potential, purpose, vision, and glory are worked out in the context of our primary mission as human beings. We are called to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. God created man for this purpose and, even though Adam and Eve disobeyed God and abdicated their dominion to Satan, God never relinquished his original goal, nor did he abandon humanity completely. Instead, the whole scope of God’s grand story of restoration moves forward with the original plot line, which was the manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth.

Munroe repeatedly makes a consistent point throughout his books related to the kingdom: Christ did not come to establish a religion – he came to establish a kingdom.

Each and every one of us is born with a divine potential, placed in us by God. We begin to realize that potential by discovering our own unique purpose or calling. This purpose or calling begins to move increasingly toward manifestation when we, with the help of the Spirit, connect that purpose with a specific vision. When we fulfill our potential by manifesting our purpose through our specific vision, we can be said to have “realized our glory.” Now, the vital aspect to understand in all of this is the fact that all of these elements are worked out in the context of God’s great purpose: establishing his Kingdom

Munroe’s concept of Jesus’ mission of establishing a kingdom rather than a religion leads him, at times, to take a rather dim view of religion. In fact, Munroe sees, and I agree completely, that religion can be a major stumbling block to the realization of the kingdom.

All religions are the same in the sense that they attempt to answer the questions of power and meaning. They all promise power to control life and circumstances and to explain life and death. They all claim to have the truth. They all claim superiority over each other. They all compare and compete with each other. They all demand adherence to their particular belief system while denying others. They all are motivated by contention and usually thrive in an isolated culture that excludes other segments of humanity. In fact, all religions seem to glory in a spirit of segregation and separatism. Rather than uniting humanity with common power and knowledge of purpose, religion has proven itself instead to be the great divider of mankind.

Munroe stresses the fact that Jesus’ central mission was to inaugurate and carry out the first stages of the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. It was Christ’s mandate and, as his followers, it is our mandate as well.

Everything Jesus said and did – His prayers, teachings, healings, and miracles – was focused on a kingdom, not a religion. Jesus was preoccupied with the Kingdom; it was His top priority, His heavenly mandate.

For Munroe, Jesus came not only to reconcile God and humankind, but also to restore something that was lost – the kingdom. And, by restoring the kingdom, help satiate humankind’s intense hunger for two things: power and purpose.

It is important to note here that when man fell from grace, he lost a kingdom, not a religion. He lost dominion over the earth; he did not lose Heaven. Therefore, mankind’s search is not for a religion or for Heaven, but for his kingdom. This is why religion can never satisfy the deep hunger in the heart of man. Religion is itself a search. No religion can substitute for the kingdom or fill the vacuum in man’s soul. The hunger of the human heart is for the lost kingdom.

The teachings of Myles Munroe in many of his other books, particularly his ideas about potential, purpose, vision, and manifesting “glory” in one’s life all come together under the rubric of the kingdom concept. All that we are and all that we are gifted with is to be used to carry forward God’s universal purpose: the restoration of kingdom rule on earth. This is not so much a call for theocracy in a political sense. Instead, it is a call for a personal rule in the believer’s individual life. Only then, can the kingdom become a corporate reality. In this regard, Munroe is clear on what he believes should be the primary teaching of the church in this age:

How important to the Body of Christ is the message of the Kingdom of God? Frankly, we have nothing else to preach or teach. The message of the Kingdom is good news, and the Church exists to proclaim it. If we are doing our job, everything we are about will be Kingdom-focused; every sermon we preach, every Bible study we teach, every ministry we perform, every activity we accomplish, and every worship service we celebrate….The Kingdom of God must be our highest priority. Jesus gave us no other commission.

In my own life, both personally and professionally, I have made an earnest attempt to make these words a living reality on a daily basis. By the grace of God and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I have made a degree of progress. I still, however, have a long way to go. As I press forward toward the prize, I am grateful that God took me by the hand that day in 2005 and, in spite of my own ignorance, led me to something that has been transformative and highly meaningful.

I do not mean to imply that everyone should hold the same view of Myles Munroe that I do. I suspect that for each of us, there has been someone, perhaps an author, a teacher, a preacher, or another instrument God has used to speak to us at a particularly critical point in our walk of faith. For me, it was Dr. Munroe.

© L.D. Turner 2014/All Rights Reserved

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/personal-thoughts-on-the-passing-of-dr-myles-munroe/

Dec 14 2014

LifeBrook: Wise Words for Today

Original post at http://lifebrook.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/wise-words-for-today-368/


Almost unknowingly, we all have a tendency to redefine Christianity according to our own tastes, preferences, church traditions, and cultural norms. Slowly, subtly, we take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into someone with whom we are a little more comfortable. We dilute what he says about the cost of following him, we disregard what he says about those who choose not to follow him, we practically ignore what he says about materialism, and we functionally miss what he says about mission. We pick and choose what we like and don’t like from Jesus’ teachings. In the end, we create a nice, non-offensive, politically correct, middle-class, American Jesus who looks just like us and thinks just like us.”

These words may be hard to hear for many of us, yet they still ring true in you think about it. This has been especially true since the rise of the Religious Right on one end of the political spectrum, and Liberation Theology on the other. Whenever we wed the faith with a political movement or join at the hip with a political party, we usually wind up with a distorted Jesus that bears little resemblance to the real deal. On a more personal level, many of us tend to mold Jesus into a more palatable commodity, one that doesn’t create too much change or stress in our lives. In essence, we seek to serve a Jesus that affirms our status quo and many of us whittle away at his true character until he becomes what we need him to be.

David Platt

(from Follow Me)

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/wise-words-for-today-89/

Dec 04 2014

LifeBrook: Responding to God: Just Keep It Simple

Original post at http://lifebrook.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/responding-to-god-just-keep-it-simple-2/


Mick Turner

I think one of the most comforting and encouraging truths of the gospel message is that, in spite of past screw ups, Jesus loves and accepts us as we are. Not only that, but through the actions of the blessed Holy Spirit, he is willing to help us change. And even more mind boggling, he is planning on making us a full partner in his father’s business. Author and teacher Billy Joe Daugherty speaks to these themes in a clear manner:

This is the good news of Jesus: He loves you just the way you are, yet He sees you for what you can become…..He sees you sharing the living water with others who are dry on the inside….God has big plans for you. It may seem like you have wasted your life, but with Jesus you can make up for lost years in a short time. He will not reject you for your past failures. He welcomes you to come to him and receive living water.

As I said, I find this aspect of the Lord to be most comforting because I have certainly messed up things many times. Further, I can truly relate to that feeling of having wasted my life. Yet Jesus is willing to put that behind us now and turn both His eyes and mine toward a more positive, successful future, one where I can have a positive, beneficial impact on the world in general and my family in particular.

More amazing is the fact that I never have to go it alone. Instead, the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit is walking next to me and living inside me in a miraculous way I can never understand but can fully appropriate through the simple act of faith. I don’t know about you, but when I truly take time and reflect on all this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. The only thing required of me to receive the healing water of Christ is faith. It really is that simple. Unfortunately, many Christians fail to understand what if means to have faith. Jesus plainly told us that he has overcome the world and all that we have to do to have a life of spiritual fulfillment is to accept what He has told us in faith. As I was sitting here writing these words I was reminded of the following words, again from Daugherty:

Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. It is our faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross. In His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus defeated Satan and took the keys of authority from him. Now Jesus Christ reigns forever.

Jesus reigns forever and scripture assures me that I am co-heir with Him, as are you if you have accepted his gift of grace with faith. This acceptance I am speaking of here involves more than the forgiveness of sin, although it certainly involves that. By His blood the Lord purchased our forgiveness and justified our being before the Father, but the cross also accomplished something equally significant, not to mention precious. Through Christ’s cross, his death, and his resurrection, we are empowered to live as he says we should live. Just as we could never do enough to attain forgiveness and justification before God, we can never live the full Christian life under our own power. We need something more and Christ has provided that power for us in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Further, we have on the inside of us the same resurrection power that brought Jesus back to life. The ultimate nature of that power is far too profound and mysterious for me to ever get my mind completely around but, on faith, I am fully convinced that it is mine.

So what stops us from simply accepting what Christ is freely offering us? There are a number of reasons I suspect, but one I encounter with more than a few sincere believers is one you might not immediately think of. Christians seem to have an uncanny knack for taking simple truths and complicating them through debate, dogma, and doctrine. I don’t mean to imply that these issues are not important. Certainly doctrine and dogma have their place. But I often wonder if Christ smiles in approval when he hears us debating his simple truths to the point that we divide ourselves into countless denominations and sects and tear asunder the Body that he meant to live in love and unity. On the contrary, I suspect this endless hairsplitting and theological nitpicking brings tears to his eyes.

During the early 1980’s I enrolled in several Religion courses at a small university near my home in north Alabama. I recall one course in particular that centered on the life of Jesus. My fellow classmates were an interesting group. Some were undergraduate students pursuing coursework in Religion and Philosophy in preparation for seminary. Others were ordained pastors of small local churches who, after preaching for a number of years, felt the need to further their education. Others, like myself, were there seeking a deeper understanding of the Christian faith as well as its history and traditions. Then there was Henry.

No one knew exactly why Henry was enrolled. He rarely spoke and when he did, it was with a soft, slow voice with a pronounced rural southern brogue. Considering the diverse make up of the class, it was natural that heated discussions would often break out. The professor often encouraged this in fact. The class argued about many issues. The nature of the Trinity, immersion versus sprinkling, the permanency of salvation, the list is endless.

I admit I often enjoyed these ballyhoos as they lent a degree of excitement to the proceedings and made the class time pass more quickly. One night the class was engaged in a verbal free for all centering on the Virgin Birth. I remember clearly hearing a wide range of viewpoints on this, mostly in support of the indisputable validity of the doctrine of virgin birth. I for one remained on the periphery of this dispute mostly out of ignorance. The doctrine of Virgin Birth was not for me an issue of central importance to my daily experience of the Christian path. In fact, unless it was brought up for discussion, I rarely consider it. It was one of those issues that I had placed on the theological back burner.

After a lengthy discussion, the professor looked to the back of the room and said, “Well Henry, you’ve been mighty quiet in this discussion. Why don’t you share your thoughts on the Virgin Birth with us?”

After a long pause Henry folded his hands on the desk, looked cautiously around the room and said:

“Well, I’ve been a settin’ here for over an hour listenin’ to you gents discussing this here thing about the Virgin Birth of Christ. I guess ya’ll know a heck of a lot more about all this than I do. You must or else you couldn’t talk about it for so long. All I know is this. Jesus loves me and I love him and try to do what he says. I reckon it don’t matter much to me what his momma done.”

Point taken Henry, end of discussion.

Instead of simply taking Christ at his word and freely receiving his gift of both salvation and sanctification, we often enter into arcane debates over issues that are not fundamental to the issue at hand. At the end of the day, we complicate a simple offer and this confuses believers inside the church and turns away many on the outside. I could give countless examples of this because I used to do this very thing. We all too often major in the minors and minor in the majors.

One issue that I have often heard brothers and sisters discussing, often in heated tones, is the order of salvation. Some say that we repent, and then we are saved. Others say that we repent because we are saved. I imagine one could make a case for either side of this issue by citing various passages of scripture but in terms of our response to God’s grace I don’t see that it matters much on a practical level. The fact is God makes His offer and we respond. The mere act of responding is in itself an act of repentance. We accept that we are accepted, complete with our cuts and bruises, our shortcomings and short-fallings. This is the meaning of grace, pure and simple.

Our role in this process is not to analyze, dissect, or debate. Our job is to respond. We either accept the offer or we refuse it. God has so arranged this process that it is really up to us.

Grace is not something we can earn. We can’t work our way into God’s grace because, in spite of our best intentions, nothing would ever, ever be enough. We can’t even pray our way into God’s grace. We can’t plea-bargain and attempt to get a lighter sentence for our sins. No, all we can do is get it through our heads, however thick, that grace flows from God to us. Our task is to accept it fully and get on with the task of letting the Holy Spirit flow into us and do His work to make us more like Christ.

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.

As I have previously shared on this website, 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.

What we can do is express our gratitude by being thankful, expressing our heart-felt appreciation for what God has done for us. Our gratitude must further be translated into positive action and a repentant lifestyle, which expresses itself in obedience, faithfulness, humility, faith, trust and, above all, a selfless love. In other words, we accept God’s gift of grace, forgiveness and adoption into his family, then get on with the work of growing in Christ-Character. Again, get this down and get it deep. Grace comes from God, not from anything you have done or will ever do in the future. Listen to Gary Collins:

Grace is not a loan from the past. It is a gift that extends through all eternity. It is a gift that helps mold our lives so that our spirituality is God-centered, Christ-honoring, Spirit-guided, life-influencing, and ultimately, fulfilling.

Don’t you just love that? God-centered, Spirit-guided, and life-influencing. Once we accept God’s gift, and importantly, once we accept that we are accepted by God, our duty is to live a life that is focused on God and makes Him the fulcrum of our thoughts, words and deeds. The amazing thing here is that God’s grace extends even to the point that we are aided in making him the focal point of life. The Holy Spirit comes along side of us, in fact, comes to reside in us and guides us as we seek to open our ears so that we can hear Him speak. As this happens, we increasingly become equipped to do Christ’s work on earth, to be his hands, his feet and his heart in a broken, dysfunctional world. Our life is influenced so we can influence other lives. In essence, once we accept God’s gracious gift, we are empowered to become God-centered, Spirit-guided servants that can make a positive difference in the world.

© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/12/responding-to-god-just-keep-it-simple/

Nov 21 2014

LifeBrook: Wise Words for Today

Original post at http://lifebrook.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/wise-words-for-today-367/


From beginning to end, we will be called to make courageous decisions even while we find ourselves gripped with fear. There are no exemptions. Any claims that you should be exempt from having to walk this path are rejected. Any attempt to create an elitist category for those who live heroic lives while placing yourself outside of it is unacceptable. If your argument is that you just aren’t cut out for this kind of adventure, you can rest in the comfort that you are absolutely right, which is exactly why Jesus is calling you out. He calls you to begin a quest for honor. Courage is not an issue of birth. It is an expression of the heart. To be courageous is literally to be strong of heart. Both fear and courage are heart conditions. If you are weak of heart, fear not. Everyone who chooses to follow Jesus Christ receives a heart transplant. This new heart comes fully equipped with the spirit and courage of God ready to be pumped right into your timid soul.

To follow Jesus is to choose to live in His adventure. How in the world could you ever imagine a life of faith that does not require risk? Faith and risk are inseparable. It should not come as a surprise to us then that a life of faith is a life of courage. ….You cannot walk by faith and live in fear. You cannot walk with God and not face your fears. God calls you to dream great dreams and to have the courage to live them. Great dreams require great courage.

Erwin Raphael McManus

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/wise-words-for-today-88/

Nov 19 2014

LifeBrook: The Apologetics of Incarnational Living

Original post at https://lifebrook.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/the-apologetics-of-incarnational-living-2/


Mick Turner

Any thoughtful, observant Christian should be aware by now that the Western church is in crisis. Don’t be deceived by the growth of the so-called “mega-churches” and the various and sundry “evangelistic explosions” that we see taking place. The fact is, people are leaving the faith in droves and fewer new faces are coming through the doors. Moreover, these dwindling numbers, along with our culture’s increasing negative view of Christianity, have relegated the church to a position of peripheral social influence.

Once the bedrock upon which our culture’s value system was built, the church is now little more than marginal voice in the constantly shifting tides of post-modern America. Identified by most Americans as joined at the hip with Right-Wing Conservatism, the church is viewed with increasing disdain and animosity. Traditional attempts at evangelism and apologetics only seem to make the situation worse. Evangelism is seen as an attempt by elitist Christians to ram their faith down people’s throats and apologetics is viewed as an archaic attempt to make the unreasonable make sense.

If the church is to survive, drastic changes must take place. It should be obvious by now that the old ways of “doing church,” especially evangelism, is doomed to failure.

Personally, I have come to believe that the most effective form of Christianity involves being faithful to our calling to incarnate Christ to a hurting world. This is the essence of what is often called “Kingdom living.” It is a lifestyle which, if carried out with compassion and commitment, will in and of itself draw people to the faith. It involves a simple paradigm: find a pressing social need and address it.

Put simply, it means giving flesh to grace. This is what Christ did and we are called to no less.

When people of faith express the love of God through acts of service and kindness, people take notice. These simple acts of grace accomplish far more than reasoned arguments, stadium rallies, popular seminars, and best-selling books. These simple acts of grace, especially given the church’s increasingly negative image in our culture, are the most effective forms of evangelistic activity we can engage in. It was not so different in the early church, which can serve as a model for what we should be doing.

In the middle of the Third Century a terrible plague devastated the Mediterranean world, dealing death to large swaths of the population. Many of those stricken with the disease were sent out of the cities, destined to die agonizing deaths alone and terrified. The Christian faithful, however, responded in a much different fashion. Dionysius, the bishop of Alexandria, describes the acts of grace this way:

Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting t heir pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.

Many people were drawn to the fledgling church by the acts of service and sacrifice that so typified the early Christians. I am of the belief that it is here that the modern church can find its methodology of renewal. Crafting theological arguments is not the answer in today’s post-modern culture; nor is allying the church with a political party or ideology. Withdrawing into our own “Christian culture” is equally misguided. Instead, we need to immerse ourselves into the hurts of this world and find creative ways to bring God’s healing light to those hurts. Anything else misses the point.

Paul stressed that in order to be effective witnesses for the gospel, we must become “living epistles.” We must become open letters that anyone can read and by reading, come to a deeper understanding of just who this radical Galilean was and is. It is a high calling, indeed and not one to be taken lightly. If we take Jesus’ words about the final judgment as recorded in the 26th Chapter of Matthew as true, then it should be obvious to even the most dense among us that the litmus test for defining a Christian is not belief in Christ, but in embodying Christ.

Michael Frost, in his excellent book Exiles, points out that this incarnational living is incumbent upon all who would claim Jesus as Master and Teacher:

Practicing the presence of Christ means being a living example of the life of Jesus. This raises the stakes enormously. It means that our lives need to become increasingly aligned with the example of Jesus. It doesn’t require sinless obedience – as if that’s possible anyway. It means, though, increasingly becoming people of justice, kindness, mercy, strength, hope, grace, generosity, and hospitality.

Yes, this divine calling is an invitation to a life of fulfillment and reward beyond our imagining, if we will only yield ourselves to it with complete abandon. Yet for many of us, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Still, it is necessary to move forward as best we can, relying on the promises of God and the empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit. For many of us, we get better in spite of ourselves. I know that is often true in my case.

This call to emulate Christ is a call to give flesh to grace. The whole story-line of God’s Great Saga is one of proactive grace. God saw that we needed grace and gave us Christ and Christ saw that the world needed grace and gave the world us. Just pause and chew on that one for a minute. What a great honor and what a great responsibility.

As “living epistles” we have the opportunity to meet God in the divine moment, what Erwin Raphael McManus calls the “epicenter of God’s activity.” When we consistently engage in these acts of Christian kindness, we in essence become what Gary Thomas accurately calls “God Oases.” Thomas explains:

A holy man or woman is a spiritual force, a “God oasis,” in a world that needs spiritually strong people. When the winds of turmoil hit, such people become shelters; their faith provides a covering for all. By their words and actions, by the ways they listen and use their eyes to love instead of lust, to honor instead of hate, to build up instead of tear down, holy men and women are like streams of water in the desert, affirming what God values most. When the heat of temptation threatens to tear this world apart, godly men and women become like the shadow of a great rock. These God oases carry Christ to the hurting, to the ignorant, to those in need. They will be sought out, and they will have something to say.

I find this description of godly men and women highly inspirational, not to mention vivifying. Thomas’ words encourage us to sensitize ourselves more and more to God’s activity in this world and further, to take compassionate action in emulating Christ’s acts of grace and healing. In ways both great and small, we can locate that epicenter of God’s activity and get to work.

It is nothing less than our calling, our responsibility, and our honor. And in so doing, it is my earnest prayer that more and more of us can become living epistles – God oases – and give incarnation to the godly image described in Isaiah 32:2:

Each man will be like a shelter from the wind

and a shelter from the storm,

like streams of water in the desert

and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.

© L.D. Turner 2010/ 2014/All Rights Reserved

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