Dear Christians, If Church is your foundation then you NEED to rebuild!

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” -Billy Sunday

Being a member of a church is not enough.
Carrying a bible and wearing “church clothes” isn’t enough either.
Saying all of the right prayers and calling out a timely “amen” isn’t enough either.

We can look the part.
We can act the part.
But if there is no difference in your heart.
Then it all that you have been doing is acting – not being.

We can often times get the “doing” before the “being“.
Do you know what I mean?

What I mean by that is this:
We can do church.
We can even do Christianese.
We can do all of the right things for all of the wrong reasons, and still not BE holy as God has called us to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15).

Doing requires works and action (Which in the right context are good, but AS the context can be bad).
Being requires deep, lasting change.
Being requires identity, the true source of context and provides us with the true foundation – God Himself.
We are made in the image of God.
We are His.
Being His requires surrender, sacrifice, dying of our old self and taking on this new image.

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” -Ephesians 4:22-24 (The Message Version)

If we simply “do Church” we are attempting to “faith-hack” our relationship with Christ and with those He called us to minister to.

If our entire faith journey is all about how Church is blessing ME then we have corrupted our faith and have deleted the great commission from our ideology. We might rationalize it like this: “Sure, reaching people is good as long as they come to our church and as long as they fit the mold of what I think Christians should look and sound like.

I fear that our Western ideology has polluted our perspective of what being a Christ-follower looks like.
The Christ-following ecclesia (as found in the Acts 2 early Church) was about the Body (the group of believers) being unified, sharing everything while adding to their numbers by reaching out into the world and preaching, teaching and making disciples. The love (Agape love) was evident and was like a sweet aroma to the world around them.

Have we lost that lovin’ feeling?
In our attempts to grow our churches, have we lost sight of reaching out and loving others?

Jesus didn’t call us into the safety of a church building to being silos, develop our own church culture and making it hard for the “outsider” to relate let alone earn their membership cards to our exclusive club. We as humans can sometimes make Jesus almost inaccessible to the sinner when we ourselves are sinners save by grace.

Jesus didn’t call us to become comfortable and complacent in our faith.
He did not want us to leave people out or write them off either.
If we are hiding behind Church, or dare I say, if Church has replaced God as our faith in religious practices, rituals and observances, then we MUST rebuild our faith.

How About You?
Church is not four walls of a building where we practice piety.
Church is not about rituals and the styles of our expressions in worship.
Church is not about having an exclusive club membership.

Church is you and me, human beings, living out our faith expression first of all for the glory of God (and not because we prefer this style of worship music or style of service). Secondly, we express this living and active faith so that others might see the image of Christ through us. When we do this, we are helping others discover that faith journey too for the purpose of a Jesus relationship.

Burn the walls of division.
Burn the halls of exclusivity
Tear down the rituals that have hidden Christ instead of revealed Him to others.
Break the traditions that do not glorify but only serve to prevent new membership and fellowship.

YOU are the Church.
YOU are the prophet that God has called to minister to others (that only you can minister to).
YOU are called and equipped.
YOU must check your foundation and if it is in need of repair – begin the restoration process today!

-Something more to ponder today.

3 Resources to help you become a better Salvation Army Officer…

Let’s face it, the role of a Salvation Army Officer is difficult.  I know…understatement of the century!

There are certainly joys…along with heartache and sorrows – it’s a mixed bag sometimes.  We all wish that things would go according to plan, but most of the time we look like this:
spinningAnd, we hope nothing gets dropped along the way…

The question doesn’t become what can we do less of, but rather how can we do the good things better?  How can we begin to focus on the strengths of our corps and our corps people?

If I have learned anything from Officership it is that we are very, very good at doing many things, but we do not do many things well.  Perhaps it is time to stop meeting the average expectations, stop doing mediocre work because we’re spread far too thin to do anything well; and instead, focus on the things that make our corps or ministry unique and successful!  To do this, sacrifices might have to be made, we might have to eliminate or reduce the amount of ‘spinning plates’, but we do no one any good if we implode from over-extending ourselves.

It would be so easy to simply offer you some amazing new Apps that will help you in your ministry.  It would be simple to offer this new thing I found of the internet that other pastors are using…instead let me offer you 3 Resources that you already have and will not cost you a dime (except for your time and effort).

  1.  Pastoral Partnerships: 
    pastorsThe unfortunate side of ministry, it would seem, is that many churches and pastors are in competition for parishioners.  It isn’t always intentional, but many churches have created their own silos, including The Salvation Army.  Sometimes it’s pride, and self-reliance, but these silos prevent us from truly experiencing the fellowship of other ministries and resources because we cannot work with others.  Visit other pastors in your community.  Go to their churches (but not on Mondays = Universal Pastoral day off) and meet fellow workers in the fields of souls.I recently visited the pastor of our local Wesleyan Church.  He called me up to donate some food to our soup kitchen, and I had not had the chance to meet him yet…so I personally went to see him.  What I experienced in talking to him for only 45 minutes was not only refreshing to my soul, but it encouraged me greatly.  We also struck up some commonalities, and resources were exchanged for the development of future partnerships together.

    Fellow Officers, we are so much stronger together than we are by remaining in our individual denominational silos.

    2.   Community Connections  Puzzle
    This resource is closely related to #1 as well as the continued need to get out of the silo…(perhaps you are picking up on the theme of this particular article).  There are many people in your community right now that love The Salvation Army and they just need an invitation to help out.  Be mindful that business professionals are very busy, so make sure the buy-in request is tangible, well thought out, and clear.  You are looking for pieces to the puzzle to help with the over all mission, that Bank president can help in great ways provided that you put that ‘piece’ into the right place.

    3.  Leadership Development, Empowerment & Delegation!
    The last resource (at least on this list, because there is SO much more that we could cover) is, in my opinion, the most important resource that your corps or ministry has – people who are already invested in the mission!!  We are only as strong as the team around us.  We as Officers are good at trying to do everything on our own, so much so that we often face burnout.  In Exodus 18, we find a workaholic named Moses who is wisely counseled by his father-in-law Jethro.  Jethro tells Moses; “what you are doing is not good.  You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.  The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18)

    This is extremely wise advise to Moses and to us.  We cannot do it all ourselves, so why do we try to be SuperOfficer?  Why do we think it all has to get completed by us?  This is where leadership development, empowerment and delegation comes into play.  We owe it to ourselves and the future development and growth of our corps to raise up leaders who can help us.  Perhaps those leaders are already there, they just don’t know it yet.  This type of development and action will take time and patience, but your ministry will be stronger because of it.

    Just think, every time we ‘go it alone’ we are potentially robbing someone of the opportunity to learn, lead and grow!  Do you need help developing your team?  Having struggles figuring out how this ought to be done?  Consult your divisional staff, ask for help from other pastors, and perhaps do some research on how other corps are appointing leaders and developing them.  MinistryHere is one resource that the Central Territory is using, and I know that there are other resources just like this in other territories.

    Do not leave your corps members behind while planning for the future!  Raise up others to help you accomplish the mission of the Army!  It might be easier to do everything yourself, but entrust, empower and lead others to become better invested in the mission of this Salvation Army!

    These are just three resources to help you become a better Officer, naturally, never discount or take for granted the power of the Holy Spirit in all of these ventures!  He will empower you to do what must be done, so above all else, humble submit yourself to Him daily!

    Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
    God bless you!

“The Lord Will Provide” Do you Really Believe it?

We use this phrase from time to time.
It is sometimes used as a blanket statement to instill hope.
We often cling to it in to times of trouble – “The Lord Will Provide!”
This phrase might be uttered from our lips in the direction of someone who is hurting, in dire straights or a person whose problems seem insurmountable – “Well, the Lord will provide!”…

meanI wonder sometimes if we truly mean what we say.   And what if we say those words with a half-heart and the Lord doesn’t provide for that person…could they end up blaming God, faith for their hurt?  What if we say those words and nothing happens?  What kind of testimony do we present to the world through half-hearted comments and insincerity of faith?  Are we doing more damage than good with our niceties and generalities?

These words seem to flow from our tongues very easily, almost as easily as the age old response of “I will pray for you”.  So, let me ask you (and me), does this phrase carry any weight?

What does it mean?  When we utter “The Lord will provide” do we infer with others who are enduring hardship that perhaps they should pray a little harder?  Is it said with a hint of apathy?  OR is there a heart-felt sincerity laced within our response?

I’m not saying this phrase isn’t true.  happen
I have seen the provisions of God.
I have witnessed miracles take place in people’s lives.
I know He IS there for you and for me.

But, as a follower of Christ, as God’s chosen people, perhaps we must recognize the weight of the words that we say.  There IS significance, there IS meaning behind our utterances and yepcliche’ “Christianese” phrases.  The big problem is that these phrases can lose their significance and meaning if we simply overuse them without thought or true heartfelt faith.  Anything can become routine or ritual – devoid of meaning if faith and belief are not sincere and present in them.  This is ESPECIALLY true of our words!

Questions to Ponder: 
What are my motives when consoling one who needs my support?
How can I avoid insincerity and polished phrases devoid of meaning?
Do I truly believe that the Lord will provide?
What kind of evidence is there of my claims?

Lord, renew me today.
I desire to be Yours and yours alone!
Teach me to walk in Your ways even when the going is tough.
Help me to have faith in the midst of uncertainty and fear.
Help me to be Your light in my corner of the world today.
May the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. (Ps. 19:14)

Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, The Voice of Dissonance?

Is there such a thing within our ranks as a dissonant voice?
Is this even something considered?
Sometimes I wonder if individuality can be present within a quasi-militant organizational model such as ours.
Is there ever a place for such a voice?
Can iron sharpen iron without healthy friction?
Is punishment instantly doled out to those with a conflicting voice?

By dissonant I don’t mean a voice of extreme dissent or open rebellion, I mean one who has constructive things to say to the organization as a whole…is this possible?  Does that voice really matter?  Does the Army still need dissonant voices?   Will those voices really make a difference?  Or does it sort of resemble this:


I do not wish to throw gasoline onto a fire.
I do not wish to lick an open wound (I know, gross euphemism…sorry).
But I do wonder what sort of place these dissonant voices have in an army that often times spurns abnormal or divergent (sorry book/movie series) soldiers?

audioWorst Case Scenario of Dissonance:
Divergent, dissonant voices are expelled, sometimes publicly, sometimes quietly with little to no fanfare.
They are driven further and further away from sources of influence and squeezed until they either capitulate or comply to the common “group think”.   Hence the “my way or the highway” leadership model.  Decisions made by leadership within this scenario do not handle constructive criticism of any kind, and will lash out and punish anyone who raises pertinent questions that challenge the present leadership and its decision.

Best Case Scenario of Dissonance: mic
Divergent/dissonant voices are listened to, constructive criticism is welcomed in order to make the Army better.  Leaders still lead and make the decisions but welcome other voices to help make the organization better.  One can still agree to disagree but without the fear of retribution of faulty, insecure leadership.  The best case scenario is not the easiest for the organization, but would preserve its constituency while providing ownership to the “group”.   BUT…Pick Your Battles!
pickDissonant voices can become just like traffic noise if not careful on what battles are waged through constructive criticism.  Traffic noise is loud and indicate when someone is coming, but if you constantly live with the noise, it will eventually become tuned out and ignored.  If one constantly challenges authority and argues with every voice of reason and “unreason” that voice will eventually lose all power and credibility.   If you must challenge authority and leadership…pick your battles and make sure you look for traffic!

Organizational Questions to consider:
Are there times when the voice of dissonance is needed in our Army?
What can one do to ensure dissonant voices of concern are listened to?
How can we tell when we have become the one in need of listening instead of speaking?
Does this army have room to grow and to become better defined and equipped?
How does one know which battles to pick?
When does pride become our blinder and prohibit us from seeing the “big picture” or the “other side”?

Photo Mar 23, 5 21 28 PM
The Resonating Dissonance…

In the grand scheme of things, The Salvation Army was born from such a voice.
William and Catherine Booth began this mission because it seemed that no one else would.
They moved from the “accepted” group think into something new, and the transitional go between was this voice of dissonance.  Jesus was a dissonant voice in His day.  He, at times, upset the “group think”.  He challenged the “law”.  His way was obviously divine, life saving, deeply personal and yet salvation for the whole wide world.  How can we become a resonating voice of dissonance in our world?  How can we bring into the focus the need to become better aligned with Christ?  How can we align our harmony with the orchestra of God?  Can this army thrive within THAT voice again?  I believe that we can.  I believe that it isn’t too late for that.  May we strive to be an ever forward moving army!  May we guide the wounded hearts to Christ.  May we never stand in the way of His Holy Presence and His moving in this body of Christ!  May we use our voices both as individuals as well as an Army to make the name of Christ resound, so that hope is given, love is shared and joy, unspeakable joy is forever dispersed among His people.

Something more for this Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, 10 – Salvationists That Have Inspired Me…

Paul had Barnabas to inspire and encourage him even if they didn’t always get a long in the end.
Paul became Timothy’s mentor who inspired a new generation of the early Christian church.
Throughout history there have been those who have stepped up to lead by example.  They have been mentors, accountability partners, strong godly leaders, examples of holiness.  Despite all of these things, none of them (and most will freely admit this) were perfect or had it “all together”.

getGet this:
Our Army needs more inspiring leaders like the ones I am about to list!
Perhaps this is you…perhaps you are the next generation of leaders about to step up and take this mantle.  This isn’t some sort of popularity contest, or ego trip…this is leading and serving as a godly example for others.   Many do this without any fan fare.
Most simply want to be like Christ and so they strive daily to humbly serve and become living examples of Him to the rest of us.  We certainly need more of these inspiring servants in our Army today!

Scriptural Reminders for us today: 
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.-Ephesians 4:2
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ…”  1 Corinthians 11:1
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved [a]you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God [b]as a fragrant aroma.”  Ephesians 5:1-2

This is not an exhaustive list, and I know that as I share my personal list with you, you will undoubtedly have others that come to your mind.   Also do not be offended (I will get my self in trouble with family and friends…sorry) if I do not list people that you know, or if I do not mention you…as I have already said this is not an exhaustive list.  There are many more!

uniform10 Salvationists That Have Inspired Me…
This isn’t some sort of ranked order, rather this is simply a list that I have currently compiled.
(sorry I may not have pictures for everyone)

1.  My Mother and Father – Colonels Dennis and Sharon Strissel
My parents have exemplified godly living to me.
I have witnessed their impact on this army both in the United States as well as in Africa.  They have always been servants first. Both my mother and father have been advocates for those without voices and have stood up for the marginalized.  I count it an honor to have these two as my parents.  They are faithful soldiers even as they head into retirement.  They have inspired me to be better, to make the army better, and to never settle for mediocrity when we can, in own selves, do more.

cox2. Majors Bill and Betsy Cox
If I were asked who exemplifies holiness to me, these two loving people would come to mind.  They have been mentors to my wife and me, and like second parents in the army to us.

I know that when I talk to either of them, when I have concerns and problems, they always give careful thought and grace in their responses.  They are just genuine people who love the Lord with all of their hearts and it just pours out upon those who are privileged to know them.  They make me want to be a better pastor and follower of Christ.

Colonels Dahl restore historical Will Rogers sign at Camp Wonderland.
Colonels Dahl restore historical Will Rogers sign at Camp Wonderland.

3.  Colonels Marv and Bodil Dahl
Admittedly not the best picture of these two beautiful people, but you must know that Colonel Marv is a painter and despite current physical challenges, he is still a wonderful artist.  This picture is recent and both Colonels Bodil and Marv gave 90 hours each to this amazing restoration project.

Words cannot express how encouraging these two saints of God have been to me in this present appointment!   These two have been Barnabas’ to us.  They are truly servants first and then they offer their wealth of leadership advice!  I am inspired by Colonels Dahl because they operate from a place of compassionate care and concern for fellow soldiers and officers.  They take the time to listen and they are willing to make time for you.

4.  Commissioner Dinsdale Pender
This was years ago.  I was just a small boy with parents living on St. Helena Island.  My parents where the missionary officers there on St. Helena for four years.  I distinctly remember Commissioner Pender coming to the Island for a visit.  As the band welcomed him at the seaside docks with a rousing song, he fiddled with his brief case as if attempting to pull out his cornet to play as well.  For me the reason he inspired me wasn’t so much what he said, honestly I was a small boy and cannot remember much of that time.  But what I do remember of him was his charisma and humor.  He made leadership within the Army look smart as well as fun.  He always seemed to have a smile and brought a sense of whimsical humor with the concept of leadership.

5.   Major Stephen Court and Major Danielle Strickland Court

Both Stephen and Danielle bring a sense of “in your face” kind of Salvationism that’s been missing in our army for a while (in my opinion).  Their ministry has been global, it has challenged me.  I truly appreciate their leadership (albeit from afar).  I can remember going to a commissioning in which they were the guest speakers.   They didn’t hold anything back, and it was powerful.  I’m not attempting to puff anyone up here, it was just something I will never forget and it has inspired me within the ministries I have been privileged to lead.   Both in their own rights are extremely talented writers and communicators and I admire their willingness to challenge our Army onward!
They are a spark within in our army which has become a catalyst for a new generation of Salvationist!

gowans6.  General John Gowans 
I remember his leadership as General.
How he spoke of the three legged stool of Salvationism.stool
His leadership style at times chaffed against some, but I found him to be refreshing.  He was a shot in the arm for the Army.  He had vigor and passion to see a greater army at work in the world.  I admired him and he inspired me to be a better writer and communicator for this army.  He also inspired me to push the boundaries of our “bubble” within the Army.

trans7.  TransMission (Southern Territory, USA)
This is the real deal Salvationist.  They have a passion to minister to the hearts of young people through music.  They are just down to earth guys who love the Lord.  Marty

I appreciate how TransMission have incorporated doctrinal truths into their music ministry and their passion and zeal to lead others to Christ is inspiring!  Being a movement of holiness, the progression and integration of modern styles of music has planted and watered a seed within a younger generation of Salvationists.

Adams8.  Commissioner Clive Adams

Commissioner Clive has been a source of encouragement to me within my officership as well as a writer, contributor and avid fellow blogger that I greatly admire.  He is a gifted leader and communicator and another down to earth Soldier who inspires others…plus he’s a fellow Man-United Fan!
When I read his blog postings I am encouraged and enjoy his humor as well as his candid honesty within our Army.
Read9.  Commissioner Harry Read
In my heart I have a special place of poets and Writers.
Commissioner Harry Read is still an avid poet who conjures up lines of thought provoking honesty within the minds of Christ-followers and Soldiers.  His ‘Heart-talks’ posted on social media as well as in the printed word inspire me to better articulate this holy path we all walk on.  He is a treasure to the army and although I may embarrass him in this post, I admire his ongoing active ministry.  He spurs me on, and I am sure he provides this boost in many other Salvationists around the globe.  Heart_Talk

10.  General Albert Orsborn general

My life must be Christ’s broken bread
My love His outpoured wine
A cup o’erfilled a table spread
Beneath His name and sign
That other souls refreshed and fed
May share His life through mine
(SASB #512 My Life must be Christ’s Broken Bread)

Obviously I never met General Orsborn, but his words within some of the songs that we still sing in our Army strike me at my core.  These lyrics speak to me about holiness, selflessness, servanthood, and what our Army should be all about.  I get inspired every time I sing the above mentioned song among others that he has written.

These are just ten Salvationists that have inspired me in my lifetime.
There are many more and, as I have already said, please do not become offended if you or someone you know isn’t mentioned.  This is not an exhaustive list.

Who has inspired you?
Please share your comments below, it is wonderful to hear these rich stories as we testify of God’s redeeming love!

Something more for our Army to ponder today!
To God be the glory, and may we aspire to be all that God has called us to be not only to inspire others but because we deeply desire to be like Christ in every way.

Dear Salvation Army, Too Much Rhetoric Not Enough Practice??

You don’t have to be in a political office in order to view politics…it’s everywhere including the church.
Church/corps splits have happened because of truly silly things – “the color of the carpet in the sanctuary”…really??

I’m feeling a little feisty today, so please bear with me.
Rhetoric…and Holiness???
The Salvation Army struggles with too much rhetoric and not enough practice sometimes.
What do I mean by this?
We (like any church) are so good at saying all of the right things.
We (like any church) are so good at wearing all the right clothes…ahem the uniform.
We (like any church) are so good at touting our scripture verses and doctrines…but can it become more about outward appearances like when the DC, TC or General comes to visit than about personal/corporate holiness?

Sometimes I feel as if we are very good at polishing the outside of the cup while we just keep neglecting to do the hard stuff like cleaning the inside of the cup (our hearts).  We try and try to impress the “brass” with our efforts and works but are we truly living consistently?  This isn’t some sort of witch-hunt today.  I’m not pointing the finger at anymore more than I am pointing fingers. back. at. myself.

This is Personal…
This is truly personal.
if this resounds with anyone else, then great!
Let’s do something about this together.
I honestly know that I am not the only one who struggles with this.
We are so good at singing ‘the Founder’s Song’ in Holiness meeting and thirty minutes later we’re at our favorite “Sunday Lunch Spot” complaining about the wait time, the server, we barely give a tip and then we complain on our way home about the traffic and some ignorant sap who just cut us off…do you get what I’m saying?

This is Deadly…blood
I, for one, do not want to be a member of the Salvation Army in Laodicea, if you get what I mean (Revelations 3:14-22).
If I’m honest, I’d rather rip off this uniform and walk away from it all before I start striving to become a pew warmer and a luke-warm one at that.  The church of Laodicea, according to Revelation, didn’t get their act together.  They didn’t have the passion to serve Christ as His bride.  They weren’t on fire for Him, instead they were barely tepid in their faith.  Sometimes I feel that in our Army we walk a fine line too.  We can utter all of the “catch-phrases” of our Army like “Fire a volley” and “Hallelujah”  but on the inside we’re so caught up in the bickering and pettiness that are missing out on the fire of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t think we need another Pentecost, it’s already here we are just so caught up in our own issues that we can’t see it…that’s just how I see it…I hope I’m wrong.  When did we desire to be a mediocre Army?  When did we sign up to warm a pew but as soon as the hard work comes we’re suddenly absent?  If we are truly “witnesses for Jesus” why aren’t we more visible with this message in the streets?  We cannot hole ourselves up in beautiful Halls of worship and expect the brokeness of neighborhoods to be mended by how well we sing and play an instrument.  We’ve got to get on with it!  We’ve got to either catch fire and be moved by the Holy Spirit or we need to get out of the way and stop hampering the Spirit and the potential growth of other Soldiers.  Either warm up or be spit out.

shielfThis is real…
I have felt this sting of conviction.
I don’t write this as a “guilt trip” for anyone before it strikes my heart and brings ME up short first.
We need to stop “playing” army and be army.
We need to stop fighting amongst each other and fight the real war for the souls of those who are lost.
We need to stop spouting half-empty words of rhetoric when our hearts aren’t in it and instead fall upon our faces and recommit ALL OF WHO WE ARE to Christ once more.
We do not need pew warmers and more apathetic bodies in uniforms, instead we need leaders who are servant who will serve and love regardless of where someone came from or what their last name might be.
We don’t have time to play “church politics”…this gets in the way and stunts our growth as a corporate body of holiness.

It’s “Put up” or “Shut-Up” time.
I have seen the walking dead amongst soldiers and officers.
I have seen the passion-less works of apathetic hearts.
I have witnessed the “going through the motions” without a resemblance of the practice of holiness.
We have a choice.
We can either put up or shut up.
We can either live lives worthy of this calling upon our lives, or we can stop pretending and get out of the way.
This is a wake up call.
This is a call to holiness.
This is a reminder that there is more to it than donning on the uniform and spouting all the right words.

How is your heart today?
How is your spiritual journey?
This is something more for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, I Won’t Apologize To Sin…

Dear Soldier,
Let me clarify with a story…
A long time ago…

I had the distinct displeasure of confronting an issue in our corps.
It was unpleasant.
It was sad.
I was extremely disappointing.

Two people were carrying on with a relationship even though one of them was married (to another person).
The entire church knew about it.
I was even asked by a retired pastor if I was going to do something about the situation.
I wasn’t sure what to do at first.  I’ve never been afraid of confrontation.  I usually don’t back down from such situations, in fact I have to be careful…if I’m brutally honest.  I had been praying about this issue.  Praying for a simple, (less messy) solution…but none came.  Finally I rounded the bend in our church hallway and caught them.  Right then and there I confronted them.  It wasn’t so much the scene of Jesus turning over tables in the temple, but it sure felt close to that in my heart.  I felt (and still do) very sad about the situation.  Here were two grown, mature adult Christians caught up in a sin and neither would admit to any wrong doing.  We began to have an intense moment of fellowship, if you know what I mean.  I was angry with them but at the same time very, very sad.  They were obstinate and aggressive in their defense of their situation.  Suddenly it became everyone else’ fault…I honestly wasn’t looking to play the blame game.  I had not been praying for a direct confrontation like this, yet here it was.  Confrontation is never comfortable or enjoyable, and if it ever becomes comfortable and enjoyable then something is very wrong.  I hated it.  I wanted to be somewhere else other than right there in that moment, and yet I couldn’t be.  How could the church grow, continue to confess sin, fellowship in a healthy way and love one another with discipline and accountability when THIS elephant in the room was looming largely?

Sadly, circumstances were not recoverable…at least to my knowledge (I still hold out hope for reconciliation).  Both decided to go elsewhere to church.  I was even given an ultimatum – “apologize to us, or we won’t come back to church“…really?  I’m sorry, but I won’t apologize to sin.  I just can’t.  I can’t compromise like that.  Sin has a way of blinding us of our faults.  Sin has a way of shifting the blame, making us less aware of wrong doing while rationalizing it away until it’s okay and it’s someone else’ problem.

I never once said that they had to leave the corps.  They weren’t “kicked out”.  Amidst the confrontation I was painfully aware of grace and love…but I (we, the corps council) expected more from them because they were a part of our corps family.  Isn’t it like that with family?  The level of expectations are always higher because “family” should know better, should act better.

glassGlass Houses…
I keep thinking about the woman caught in adultery in Jesus’ day…Pharisees and teachers of the law drag this woman to Jesus.  Seriously, where was the guy who was caught as well?…doesn’t it take two to tango?..I digress.

These Pharisees want to trap Jesus while at the same time satisfying their blood thirsty need for “justice”.  Jesus, confronted with this issue, stoops down and writes in the sand.  Then after writing, doodling, naming the pharisees…I don’t know what He wrote, Jesus looks at the accusers and says “He who is without sin cast the first stone…”  – They depart.  The leave.  They don’t linger.  Something remarkable happens.  I would call it a miracle.  But the story isn’t over yet.  Yes, the blood thirsty accusers are gone, but the guilty woman still stands there.  Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment that she must have felt? The man she was with apparently does the walk of shame home without any other consequence, while she is caught, dragged, confronted in front of most of the town…how embarrassing and utterly horrifying!

Finally, Jesus stands up  and looks around and then to her and says, almost sarcastically surprised, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  She says to Him, “No, Lord“…and then amazingly Jesus replies; “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

No Judgement…but Don’t Apologize to Sinjudgment
Let’s face it, we are all susceptible to sin.  If we believe that we are impervious to sin, watch out and beware!  I’m not trying to scare anyone here, it is just a reality.  We still struggle with this fallen life.  Temptation is all around us.  How we deal with these temptation defines how deep our spiritual maturity in Christ goes.  There is fine line in our walk with Christ in becoming a Pharisee and addressing real sin issues within the body of believers.  If done correctly, spiritual discipline and correction can become a life line of saving grace to someone caught in sin.  If done incorrectly, we throw adulterers, liars and cheats before Jesus while avoiding love, grace, compassion and understanding and/or facing our own hypocritical sinful selves.

The correct way desires to address spiritual issues, make one stronger in the faith, hold each other accountable for the purpose of building each other up in love, grace and compassion.  The incorrect way only serves to empower the accuser, demand judgement, criticizing immorality while avoiding any accountability of ones own actions.  We have to be careful how we conduct ourselves as accountability partners and leaders in our corps!

No…we can’t apologize to sin…but we can lovingly correct, share the burden of leadership with others.  Pray for reconciliation, confession, and forgiveness.  We were never meant to be judge, jury and executioners in our corps…but we must hold each other accountable and bring each other back from places of sin with the power of the Holy Spirit.  We can’t ignore critical issues in our corps.  We can’t pretend they don’t exist.  We can’t  bury our heads in the sand when elders, local officers and soldiers (even officers) trip and fall.  If we have any love in us for Christ and for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, then we will fight tooth and nail to seek reconciliation and restoration…until that time, don’t stop praying intercessory prayer for each other!

Something more for our Army World to Ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army – The Internal Battle & 3 Prescriptions!

robin3This past August when Robin Williams died, the world was shocked.  How could someone so funny come to such a sad and horrible ending?  We really do not understand the depths of such internal battles unless we ourselves have been there.

Just because we put on uniforms it doesn’t mean that we stop experiencing difficulties.

Just because we become a Christ-follower doesn’t mean that we stop struggling with internal battles.
Some people even genetically struggle with things like depression and I would like to talk about this today.  Before you stop reading and think to yourself “this doesn’t relate to me“, perhaps you’ll reconsider because we are all in this together and you just might be able to help someone else who DOES relate to this.

A Story About Depression:
One of my Uncles, who is an Officer in the Southern Territory USA,  shared with me a story about a local Presbyterian minister in his town.  It is a sad story.  The kind of story that causes shell shocked locals to question life and death and to reconsider their preconceived notions of depression.
Apparently, this local Presbyterian minister, who had been on sabbatical from his church, committed suicide.   He ended his life.  He allowed the darkness within him to quench the light of hope.  Let that sink in for a moment.  A minister, who was deeply depressed and struggling with this difficult internal battle, ended his life.  It doesn’t matter how he did it, but that he did it.  His church and surrounding community are currently and completely devastated.  Questions have been swirling and the idea that not just any person committed suicide, but a Pastor and leader of a church committed suicide has sent his church and community whirling in disbelief.

There’s A Lesson Here:
-Everyone is susceptible to these internal battles
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Presbyterian minister, a Catholic Priest or even a Salvation Army Officer or Soldier.  We still struggle in life sometimes.  We can still face things like depression.  Sometimes we’re very good at hiding it too.  Sometimes we’re so good that we even convince ourselves that nothing is wrong when something is very wrong within us.  We sometimes compartmentalize these struggles and convince ourselves that someone else is to blame or the situation at hand is to blame when the battle is truly internal.  Instead of beating ourselves up over feeling this way, we need to reach out for help.

The Misnomers Of Depression:
We can often look at these internal battles as weaknesses and something to be embarrassed about.  If you’re struggling right now or know someone who is, please don’t be embarrassed or make that person feel embarrassed.  Don’t think for a minute that you are less valuable because of the internal struggles you are facing.  Don’t think for a minute that no one will understand.  Don’t think for a minute that you are all alone in these dark days.  Don’t buy into the lie that you must be weaker than other because you are struggling.

Another misnomer with depression is the idea that if I deny it exists (that I’m depressed)  I will be fine.  Have you ever shaken up a carbonated soda and then opened up the top?  What happens?  The bottled up carbonated soda explodes from the container doesn’t it?  In the same way that bottle can’t hold the shaken contents, so too our bodies and minds aren’t equipped to hold everything in either.  We have to let these struggles and abscesses of the heart and soul out of us.  We can’t avoid them…they won’t simply go away.  We could do more harm to ourselves if we just let them fester within us without releasing them.

Here are three prescriptions, dear soldier, to help us conquer and win these internal battles  –

1) Seek Professional Help!
It is a sign of strength, not weakness to receive help from a counselor, pastor, or professional psychologist.  Get over the misconception that it is wrong to talk about your struggles.  Seeking out help is the first step to having victory over that internal battle!  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  When we have someone else on board with us helping us find hope and joy again we can also find healing.

accountability12) Seek Accountability
This might go hand in hand with #1…but it goes further.  Do you have a friend in whom you can confide?  Are there trusted people in your life who can listen but also be honest with you?  Don’t seek out just anyone or even someone who agree with everything you say.  Find someone who will challenge you, be honest with you and will keep you accountable.  Seek out a fellow brother or sister in Christ who can pray with you and help shoulder your heavy burdens.  Accountability helps relieve some of these internal struggles.  Depression is worse when dealt with alone…remember that!

3) Find Rest And Activitiesrest1
We need our rest to replenish our physical and emotional reserves.  Officers and soldiers are ever in the fray of this mission field, but even soldiers and officers need hobbies and rest!  Make sure you find some “Me” time.  This isn’t selfish this is self-preservation.  What good will you be if you are spent and worn through and through?  Make sure you find things to do outside your mission field sometimes.  Get sufficient rest, take time to reconnect and rejuvenate.

These are just three crucial prescriptions.  There are more, but doing these three things will help in your journey to victory over your internal battles.  Don’t quit.  Don’t think for a moment that you are alone.  You are loved.  You are needed.  You are important!

If we are to be healthy Soldiers and Officers, we must first be honest with ourselves and be willing to do a little soul-care from time to time.  These internal battles won’t just go away if we just ignore them, we must confront them and in that confronting we can find healing and recovery!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God Be The Glory…and remember, You are NOT alone!!

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