Welcome to Spiritual Advantage with Sam Stone. Do you know your success depends on three elements—Spiritual Advantage, Local Advantage, and Social Advantage?
You can learn to build Social Advantage and get a 33% chance to succeed. If you live in an advantageous location, you get another 33% (66% total). If you obtain Spiritual Advantage, you will accumulate a 99% chance of success.
Furthermore, evidence shows Spiritual Advantage can overwrite other disadvantages you may have. Therefore, seeking Spiritual Advantage must be your first priority.
Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mat 6:33).
I am Rev. Dr. Samuel Stone. If you want to maximize your life and leadership and minimize your stress and anxiety, contact me for a free consultation.
You can reach me by tweeting me @SamuelStone, Instagram @rev.stone, or simply text me at 551-333-1133. Looking forward to talking with you!
Crucify the Ego to Realize Your Divine Dream
If you had only three years to live and wanted to make the most out of your life, what would be your obstacle other than time? If you had only three years to live and wanted to leave a legacy that would last for generations, what would be your obstacle other than time? If you had only three years to live and wanted to build a company that would last forever, what would be your obstacle other than time?
In just three years, can you establish a company that will last thousands of years? Jesus did it. He spent merely three years with a company of twelve disciples and started a movement that has lasted for over two thousand years and is still thriving. What’s his secret?
Don’t tell me something like “because he is God.” It will become an excuse for not giving our best to make a maximum impact. Jesus said we would “do greater things than he did” on earth. That leaves us no excuse not to leave a lasting legacy in the next three years.
Whether you are 19 or 90, you can make a lasting impact with your life if you can afford three years. Moses was 80 when he brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Jacob was about 90 when he returned to Canaan to build the kingdom of Israel.
If anyone can create something significant that can leave a lasting legacy in three years, what is the obstacle? Today, we will take a fresh look at Jesus’ open secret that he taught his disciples in this week’s scripture lesson. Let’s begin!
Mindful Fast - Preparing to Win Big without Losing My Soul
There once was an evil dragon living on a high mountain. Every now and then, it would come down to burn the farms and destroy the villages. Every time a warrior went up the mountain to kill the dragon, they never returned. People assume the dragon killed the warriors.
One day, a young man decided to go up the hill to slay the dragon. He had just returned from the best martial arts school. Before he went, his brother told him not to persist if he found out he couldn’t win, “As long as you preserve your life, you have another chance to try.”
He replied, “No problem, I’m confident I will win. I will return with the dragon’s head, and we will eat the dragon’s meat.”
As always, the warrior went up the mountain and never returned. The brother felt upset and decided to go up the hill to avenge the death of his brother. When he saw the dragon, he discovered it looked familiar.
After a closer look, he realized the dragon was his brother. He escaped the mountain and told people what he saw. (End of the story.)
How would you interpret this allegory? It’s about the dragon slayers turned into the dragon. That means every hero that went up the hill to slay the dragon turned into the dragon they slew. They successfully destroy the evil, but they become the next evil.
The story tries to warn us that we could become who we hate. On a small scale, some people turned into bullies after beating the bully. On a large scale, the communists fought against injustice but became the next injustice.
Darth Veda was a Jedi Knight! Lucifer, the Satan, was an archangel. We have instances like this all over history.
Everyone wants to make a difference in this world. We all have justice to fight. We all have a dragon to slay. We all have a mountain to move. But do we have what it takes to win without losing our soul? Jesus said,
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mt 16:26).
Jesus is not discouraging us from winning the world but warning us against losing our souls. If we become the dragon after slaying it, we gain nothing, and the world still has another dragon to fear, and we become their next enemy.
Do you know what could turn a hero into a villain? The answer is there’s another dragon inside us—our own ego. If you don’t tame the dragon within, you may win but lose your soul. Now, the question is, how do you prepare yourself to win big without losing your soul?
Jesus came to earth to slay the evil dragon to recuse humans. As fully human, does Jesus also need to tame his ego to ensure he wins without losing his soul? If the Son of God needs to immunize himself from dragonizing, shouldn’t we do the same even more?
So, today, we will look at how Jesus prepared himself to accomplish his mission decisively by spending forty days in the desert, fasting, fighting the temptations, revealing to us the secret to taming the ego.
Do you have a mountain to move? I do! What dragon are you trying to slay? From Jesus’ forty days in the desert, we can learn how to decisively conquer the world, realize our dreams, and fulfill our calling without losing our souls. Let’s begin!
Transfiguration: Exposing the Phantom of Reality
I am sure all of you have heard in the news that Apple launched the Apple Vision Pro, their first VR, AR, MR (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality) headset. I wonder how many of you have bought it. I think it’s overpriced, so I am staying with Meta Quest 3. I’ve been using Meta Quest since version 1 when it was called Oculus Quest.
If you wonder, “What’s the big deal about it? Isn’t it just another gaming device?” No longer! The big deal is these devices is ushering us into the future of the metaverse. Soon, you can transport or transfigure yourselves between the metaverse and the universe. For the first time, these headsets are produced as productivity tools and will replace your cell phones, computers, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and more.
In other words, soon, we will live, work, move, and have our being with these glasses. Most importantly, these devices can serve as an excellent metaphor for today’s subject: “Transfiguration.” If you don’t believe in transfiguration or resurrection or wonder what it is like, you will seriously consider it after this message.
For productivity, you can put on the headset and create a breathtakingly beautiful working environment. You can set up your office on the moon, at the North Pole, or under the Caribbean Sea, surrounded by tropical fish, giant sharks, and colorful sea creatures outside your office windows, above your glass ceiling, and under your glass floor. Can you imagine what it would be like to work in an office like that?
With Meta Quest 3, you get three resizable virtual monitors to work on, significantly boosting your productivity if you know how to use them.
If you like entertainment, you can watch movies on an immersive screen, like being in the iMax theater without the trouble of driving there and finding parking. If you like traveling, the National Geographic app lets you explore exotic places as if you are realistically on-site without spending thousands of dollars and an arduous journey to get to those places.
You can also play sports like golf, table tennis, bowling, basketball, you name it. You can even have fitness coaches without leaving your home. You can turn any space you have into a gym.
What’s significant now is it’s getting incredibly realistic. What you see in the metaverse can be much more beautiful than this universe. Some users say they don’t want to return to real life after being there. Others say they get confused between whether the virtual life is real or the real life is virtual. I agree with them. Sometimes, I prefer to live in the metaverse and feel reluctant to return to the universe.
Now, I have a serious question for you. Have you ever wondered if our present life here is virtual or real? What if it is virtual? Let’s say we come from the real world somewhere, and we are born into this virtual world as babies, live for about a hundred years, and return to the real world we came from.
If you could grasp that life is a phantom of reality, it would completely change how you live, how you relate with people, and how you handle the difficulties of life because everything is a phantom. All the grudges, grievances, and guilts on earth are vanity. As King Solomon said,
“Vanity of vanities … vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ec 1:2).
This book is part of the wisdom literature. King Solomon wrote this when he was old. Wisdom is to capture someone’s lifetime lesson and build on it without reinventing the wheel. Instead of working until we are old to find out, why don’t we learn from the wisdom of the ages? If all is vanity, how would you live your life?
About 2,400 years ago, my favorite philosopher Zhuangzi woke up from a dream and told his students, “I just dreamed I was a butterfly. Realistically, I flew joyfully and peacefully among flowers and trees. When I woke up, I couldn’t tell whether I was a butterfly dreaming about being a human or a human dreaming about being a butterfly.”
Serenity is the Solution
Looking at a pile of correspondence and reports from around the world to review and respond, an emperor of ancient China felt overwhelmed and couldn’t concentrate on his work. He wanted something to calm his mind down to get his work done.
He consulted the prime minister for a solution. The minister suggested hanging a giant, beautiful, calming painting in his office to induce serenity. The emperor agreed, and the minister hunted for the best artists in the country. He selected three artists to paint a picture for the emperor.
After consulting the emperor about his desire, the artists began their work. When they finished, the minister asked them to bring their finished paintings to the emperor’s office to let him choose.
The first one was a beautiful spring scenery of a flower garden. The second one was a peaceful winter lake with a snow-capped mountain behind. They all represented serenity very well.
The third one was a giant waterfall. The minister suggested eliminating the third one because a waterfall didn’t look serene. But the emperor said, “Stop, I think that’s the best one. Look! See the small bird nest with a family of birds sleeping peacefully in it despite the roaring waterfall by them. That’s exactly what I want.” (End of the story.)
This allegory teaches us that serenity does not require you to live like a hermit in a quiet mountain or deep forest away from civilization. True serenity is like those little birds staying calm and peaceful despite the turbulence in the environment.
There are two types of turbulence in life—failure and success. The effect of failure is easy to understand. Nobody likes failure. It makes us feel depressed, discouraged, and distressed. However, most people don’t know that success also disrupts our serenity. It’s equally harmful. Success is like sugar that tastes sweet but destroys our organs from the inside.
Most people know they should avoid failure but don’t realize they must also beware of sabotage by success. Don’t get me wrong! I am not talking about not attempting to succeed in your enterprise, but I mean not dwelling on it—not letting it disturb your serenity.
Depending on your age, I’m sure you have seen more people destroyed by success than failure. It was not because success was bad but because they dwelled on it.
Humans are pretty resilient. We can recover from failure repeatedly if we don’t give up. But few can recover from the destruction of success because of its sweetness. They thought it was a good problem to have. Before they realize it, permanent damage is done.
Jesus showed us how to handle both failure and success and how to move on. In this week’s scripture lesson, we can learn how Jesus maintained his serenity and humility despite his fame and success. We will learn valuable lessons from it. Let’s begin!
The Secret to Wielding the Highest Authority
A friend told me that there are three levels of authority. Generalist Authority, Specialist Authority, and Celebrity Authority. Using doctors as examples, a Generalist doctor has an average authority and charges what average doctors charge.
A Specialist could charge you much more because they have more authority, and people trust them more for their specialty.
A Celebrity doctor, however, commands a higher authority because they are popular and much sought after. Whatever they say, people tend to believe. For example, Dr. Phil is one of the celebrity doctors. Even though he is pretty big, everybody listens to him when he gives advice on weight loss. That’s the power of Celebrity Authority!
What type of authority do you have in your field? Your authority gives you leverage on the message you want to deliver. Everyone is born with a unique message to deliver, whether you are a parent or president. But not everyone has the same level of authority to make the most influence.
As a follower of Christ, you have a message to deliver, and I am sure you desire the highest possible authority. I have discovered how to attain maximum authority even if you are not a celebrity, specialist, or generalist.
Even if you are a nobody, you can still harness the highest authority to deliver your message. Let me begin with another provocative parable of Zhuangzi, my favorite philosopher of the 4th century BCE.
Zhuangzi was strolling in the woods near a chestnut orchard and suddenly saw a bird flying above him. Despite a seven-foot wingspan and a pair of big eyes, the bird seems unable to fly high and see well. It didn’t notice the man below.
Out of curiosity, Zhuangzi took out his slingshot to hunt the bird down. Then he discovered the bird was focusing on catching a mantis on a tree branch. Then he noticed the mantis was sneaking toward a singing cicada for lunch.
All of a sudden, Zhuangzi had a glimpse of awakening that upset him. He put away his slingshot and left the place quickly. Then he heard the gardener of the orchard yelling at him for trespassing. He ran home feeling miserable for several days.
His student asked, “Master, you looked unhappy for several days. What happened?” The sage told him about his experience in the orchard, describing a cicada focusing on showing off its singing voice, unaware that a mantis was about to eat it.
The mentis, on the other hand, was so fixated on its food that it failed to notice the bird behind him. Again, the bird was so fixated on its prey, unaware that a man was hunting it down. Then he felt a chill in his spine, feeling someone must be after him.
As he left, he heard the gardener yelling at him for trespassing. He realized when he was in someone’s orchard, he must follow the owner’s rules. (End of the story.)
What is Zhuangzi trying to teach here? In the context of this story, he wants us to realize that a higher authority is watching us from behind. As creatures, we fixate on the object before us and neglect the subject behind us. He had a profound realization that it kept him in deep thought for several days and transformed the way he live his life.
Zhuangzi was an esteemed sage and a celebrity authority of his time. Even the king came asking him to be the prime minister of the kingdom. Yet, his celebrity authority is nowhere near the authority of the gardener of the orchard he trespassed into.
Like an anion, this story could trigger multiple layers of enlightenment. The orchard is a metaphor for the world we live in. It belongs to the Creator of the universe, who is watching over us. All authority belongs to Him and his servants.
Receiving the Blessing of Epiphany
I want to begin with a provocative parable by the great philosopher Zhuangzi.
Once upon a time, a man named “Mr. Knowledge” traveled north to the territory of the sages to seek an epiphany of the Truth. He encountered a sage named “Mr. Actionless Wordless” and asked the following three questions:
“How do I think and ponder to know the Truth?Where do I dwell and strive to rest in the Truth?What path and plan do I follow to receive the Truth?”
However, Mr. Actionless Wordless did not answer his questions nor did he even know how to answer them.
Mr. Knowledge was disappointed and traveled south to the place called “End of Doubt.” He encountered a man named “Mr. Wild Blurter” and asked the same question. He replied, “Ah! I know, and let me tell you.” But while he was about to speak, he forgot what he wanted to say.
Mr. Knowledge was again disappointed and went to the Emperor to ask the question. That was a sage emperor, like King Solomon. He said,
“Think nothing and ponder nothing to know the Truth.Dwell nowhere and strive for nothing to rest in the Truth.Follow no path and pursue no plan to receive the Truth.”
In summary, “Do nothing!” Then the Emperor said, “Those who seek the Truth daily diminish their doing. Gradually, they achieve actionless action. Then, there is nothing not done.”
It means our actions are in the way of God’s actions. Our doing is in the way of God’s doing. God always reveals Himself, but our busyness prevents us from capturing God’s epiphany.
Simply put, the secret to epiphany is “Let go and let God daily.” It’s not a one-time practice. You need to let go and let God, let go and let God, let go and let God, day by day, until you have nothing more to let go, and your life is filled with God entirely.
It’s like John the Baptist’s motto,
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30).
I am practicing this motto, but I still have much to decrease. Again, it’s not a one-time deal but a progressive practice. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I must gradually chip myself away to let him take over. It’s called sanctification—becoming a saint.
Notice it says, “I must decrease.” Many people want God to increase without being willing to decrease themselves. It just doesn’t work that way.
You cannot serve two masters—your ego and God—at the same time. You cannot sit two kings on one thrown. Either you or God must step down. I know it’s uncomfortable for those with an inflated ego. I was one of them, but I’ve learned that it can be done slowly and steadily. He must increase, but I must decrease.
Let go, and let God. Let go, and let God. Let go, and let God. Then, you will see the epiphany. More than that, you will see what God is doing. You’ll see everything done in God’s power, your God-sized dream realized, your divine purpose fulfilled, and miracles happen.
Epiphany comes from two Greek root words, “epi,” meaning “above,” and “phainein,” meaning “reveal.” It means a higher revelation, revelation from the above, or higher consciousness of God at work.
Mr. Knowledge asked three important questions that we can translate into our quest for the epiphany of God:
“How do I think and ponder to know God?Where do I dwell and strive to rest in God?What path and plan do I follow to receive God?”
Few people ask questions like these. Mr. Knowledge is wise to ask those questions. People say there’s no such thing as stupid questions. It’s true, but smart people do ask smarter questions. Jesus said, “Ask, and you will receive.” It’s important to ask. If you don’t ask, you can’t complain about not receiving it. The Apostle James said,
“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudging