The Death Of The Sacred

I have a confession to make.
Well, it’s really not much of a confession, more of a revealing of my nature.
Here goes, I love technology.
I love how it makes things convenient for me. My schedules are synced to my computer and my phone, I can create presentations from most of my mobile devices (of which I have multiple devices), and I can take striking photos and create beautiful banners that look like art…all because of technology.

The Dangers
Despite the fact that I love technology, I have become more and more aware that I can become too dependent upon it for everything. My car even tells me where to go these days, so rarely do I acknowledge or recognize the direction in which I am going – my mobile GPS does it all…well, except drive (but I can’t wait until it can!…Okay, I digress).

Despite all of these technological advances in our age, I truly feel like we run the risk of losing the ancient and the sacred. What do I mean by this?
Our attention spans have grown shorter since the introduction of cellular devices. You don’t believe me? Can you go an entire hour without looking at your phone, either to check for new status updates on social media or to see if that special someone has texted you? It is becoming increasingly difficult even for me to divorce myself from the tech all around me and I fear I am losing the sacred even in my own life.

Related image


How about you?

Can you put your phone down?
Can you close your laptop, tablet, other devices without feeling the ‘itch” to check it again?

What do I mean by ‘Sacred’?
If you were to study the spiritual disciplines, these things that I consider ‘sacred’ would be:
Meditation
Prayer
Fasting

Image result for Holy
Solitude and Practicing Presence

Study
Simplicity
Solitude
Submission
Service
Confession
Worship
Guidance
Celebration (In God’s Presence)
(Source: Renovare )

It is very difficult to do any of these sacred things when our attention spans have grown short and shorter. For some of you reading this right now, you might even get hung up on the word ‘sacred’, because some of you perhaps have an issue with the practice of anything liturgical or what some might consider “high Church”…needless to say we can become so distracted that the sacred has died in our age, or is in its death throws as we speak.

Perhaps the next question should be:
How do we revive the sacred in our lives“?
Here are my suggestions to help you with this process, but as a caveat to this, each person is different, and if you find that something works better than something else, do what helps you to revive the sacred in your life.

1) Make a list
Make a list of all the distractions in your life.
This will help you recognize the things that prevent you from entering into those sacred moments. Remember, that the elements are not the desired goal, but rather the fellowship with our Father in Heaven should be our desire. It is in the moments of the sacred that we encounter the Divine.

2) De-clutter a space.
After you have acknowledge and listed the things that distract, find a specific space to de-clutter and prepare. No space is holy, it is our attitudes and focus that allows us to tune into the presence of God. So, if a closet is the space you choose, the so be it. God’s presence isn’t fixed in specific locations, because the Holy Spirit resides in His people. The space we de-clutter is for us, that we might focus and prepared to receive and listen.

3) Sit in Silence (Try not to fall asleep)
I saw this partly in jest, because I have, at times, placed myself in silence and have struggled with slumber. Other times, your body is telling you to get more sleep, and perhaps we need to listen to that. A time of silence can help us enter into the sacred, although I openly acknowledge (as an extrovert) that this practice is much hard for me. Perhaps you will find it easier…if you do, please enlighten me by commenting below.

4) Converse with God.
You don’t need special words, or a litany of things to bring Him…have an honest conversation. After all, He knows you better than you know yourself – He made you, so He understands your intricacies and nuances. He is aware of your situations and the things you struggle with. Be honest, because you can’t fool God – He already knows. What this conversation does is opens our lives before Him as we acknowledge elements of it verbally.

5) Begin with one of the above mentioned disciplines…study, read and apply:
The last one will take patience.
This isn’t an instant gratification, fast food type of habit.
You must acclimate yourself.
This will take discipline and acknowledgment that it will not occur over night, but rather gradually as you apply yourself to this task.

The sacred is not dead…yet.
Don’t let it perish because of our distractions – at least in this generation.
Perhaps we have to eliminate the distractions in order for us to return to the sacred. Perhaps it is within our own busy minds that this war needs to be waged. Where ever the distractions lay, confront them and carve out those intentional moments in which we might encounter the Divine.

Something more to ponder today.


The Dreams of Our Childhood…

What is it that drives you, motivates you, wakes you up in the morning?
Fear?
Coffee?
Money?
Children?
Your Spouse?

What are your passions and goals in life?
To be successful?
To find happiness?
To be content?
To travel the world?
To make the world a better place?

What if within that pursuit you discover that happiness you’ve been searching for has been with you the whole time?

What if you got it all wrong, and had to start over?
Would you?
Could you?
Or would you simply settle?

I fear many people have given up on dreaming.
I fear many have simply settled for what they have, and bought the lie that the dream was too large, or too unrealistic.

What would it take for us to begin dreaming again?
I mean dreaming reality big…like when we were kids.
When there was no such thing as impossible.
When, if we dreamed it, it could truly happen.
No walls of “can’t” exist.
No prison bars of “You just don’t have the time or education” to hold you.

Could we begin to believe again?
Would we even know how?

Yes, Adulting is hard…but as we grow older the imagination of our youth becomes even harder to hold onto.

We need to redefine the impossible.
We must recapture the dream.
We should never just settle…

-Something more to ponder today.

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

“Undoing Church” 4 Ways We Miss The Mark

Sometimes I wonder if Church, the way it is right now, is the way Christ intended it to be.  What I mean is, over time the early “Christians” met in houses and broke bread together, sang some songs of praise and prayed together…but soon the incorporation of “things” and “elements” within those worship settings were added.  These things and elements aren’t a bad thing, but what if those things and elements begin to shape our worship so much so that now we have actually lost some of what “Church” was supposed to be in the first place?  What if  Church has become so mainstream and so institutionalized that we have lost some of its initial significance and power?

Ear Phones, Tangles & Church
If you’re anything like me you probably have some of these:earlying around your home.
They are really pesky to keep straightened out.
They can become easily tangled by just putting them down on the kitchen counter or in the dreaded pocket of your jeans.  Undoing the tangles on these earbuds is a necessity in order to use them properly.  If we allow them to remain tangled or if we yank them apart in frustration we will most likely break them.

This simple illustration is kind of how I see the Church today.
We’re often times just a big, frustrating tangled mess.
We have allowed some elements and even the institutionalization of the Church to become so embroiled in complications, rituals and non-biblical traditions that these sacred cows have entangled us and restrained us from experiencing what true “Church” is all about.

We think that everything points to what we do on Sunday morning in our very rigid “bulletin” format.
We think that what we do in these elements is what matters most…but if nothing translates from ritual to spiritual disciplines and real life application in our lives, then it is all for naught.

So…perhaps instead of tightening our rigid formats in worship we need to undo them.
Perhaps part of the dwindling attendances on Sundays has less to do with “worship styles” and “cultural distractions” and more to do with our complicated worship practices and formats.

I am not saying that we toss the baby out with the bath water…but perhaps the bath water is tired, dirty and cold, if you know what I mean.  Why do we do what we do on Sundays?  Is it because that’s the way we’ve always done it?  Is it because this is what feels comfortable to us?  Is it because we’re mandated by the powers that be to conduct our services this way?  Are we so tangled up in complicated knots that we wouldn’t even want our families who don’t go to church to come to our services?
mark
4 Ways we miss the mark: 
1.  Beating the same, tired, broken drum.  drum
I won’t beat up on traditional music, there is still a place for it.
Music is vital, but it is not our focal point in worship.  It ought to lead the worshiper towards what God is saying…it should never be a performance to show off the talents of the few.  The drum we beat that is tired and old actually lies in our format of worship.  There is this sort of rigid format that we follow every Sunday where we always have the message at the end, and before that we sing a song, and before that we have the bible reading…and so on.  It’s a worn and beaten path.  It gets old.  It’s a tired and broken drum.  Sometimes I believe we lose the significance of our worship if we don’t change things up.  I believe that we can lose new comers, not because of the content of our service, but because of how we – the long timers – respond to it in our own hearts and expression.  If the drum is broken, if worship is mundane and uninteresting, if we just keep plodding along like a tired mule on a familiar path, then, perhaps it’s time to change.

We also miss the mark many times because –
change2.  We fear change so we lag behind
We don’t want to upset the apple cart.
We don’t want to “break with tradition” even when “tradition” has nothing to do with the true origins of Christian worship.  So, because of this fear of changing, we drag our feet for as long as possible.  This is just one more rung in the clumpy, tangled mess of the church.  Sometimes it’s not so much culture that is prodding us to change and adapt, but it is the Holy Spirit who is doing the prodding.  Even then, the steeped traditions and tired drums keep being played without so much as a cadence change.  Our fear of change as a body of believers might be the death of us.  I might receive some negative criticism for this, but I believe it doesn’t make it less true.  I have said it before and I will say it again that I despise the phrase “We have never done it that way before” …which sometimes translates as “We’re not about to try either!
Perhaps, in the undoing of church, we ought to be less fearful of change and more fearful of not changing and adapting as the Lord leads us.

3. We fear change in our church because of what denominational leaders might think leaders
Dare I say that “undoing the church” isn’t only about addressing the fear of change, but it is also about addressing this misguided notion about fear of what institutional and denominational leadership might think.  I am not advocating anarchy or rebellion against leadership, in fact, for the most part, God has placed leaders in those positions for specific tasks and they should be honored and respected…but…if we spend so much time pleasing our leaders and worrying about what THEY will think or say, I believe we will have lost our way and will have only added to the tangled mess that is the church today.   Yes, denominational leaders set the vision and motivation for the churches but we in those churches must meet the communities in which we live.  We must be innovators of the Word of God.  We must please God and fear Him above all else.  We must move when He asks us to move.  We must change when He prods us to adjust.

bubble4.  Our focus is inward instead of outward
Another way in which we miss the mark is the internal focus of our mission.
We, as a church, can become so internally focused that we lose the great commission unless it means the “lost” come to our doors.  I find this inward focus to be extremely entangling and detrimental to our mission as a church!  We must be welcoming of new comers to our worship services, while at the same time be community focused and attempting to serve the needs of others.   Sometimes, when our church has been a long-time established we can have this air about us…that we are “amazing” and think “why wouldn’t people want to come to us?“; or even ask condescendingly (God forbid we ever say this) “well those people really wouldn’t fit in here!”  Do cliques occur in church?  I wish I could say “no” but as sure as they exist in schools, they are in church as well!  Sometimes these cliques are inclusive of new members and many times (without saying so) they are not.  We miss the mark of true “Church” when we lose the love of the “outsiders” and instead insulate ourselves inside our own glass bubbles.

If we are to “undo” Church, we will need to adjust these issues, and untangle our hearts.
Perhaps we must revamp our worship services even though we fear change.
Perhaps we must question why we do the things we do and what real significance they actually play in leading others to Christ and into a deeper relationship with Him!  If we beat the same drum and refuse to undo church, we could face church extinction…I don’t say that as a threat, it’s just simply the truth…and sometimes the truth hurts.

Something more to ponder today!
God bless you!

Perspectives Day 1 Featuring Captain Andy Miller III

On “Changing the Army”

A loyal soldier approached me, it was clear he had something important to say. It was Sunday and the holiness meeting had just finished. His index finger was pointed right at me and with an agitated tone he said, “Your goal must be to kill the Army. You are trying to change everything!” Kill? I think not. Advocate for change to advance the fight? Absolutely.

In contrast, a few years ago I received a phone call from a well-known Salvationist writer asking me to contribute a chapter to a volume on Salvation Army doctrine that would feature  “liberal” and “conservative” opinions on a variety of theological issues. He said, “We are looking for a solid conservative voice like yours.” That volume never came out, and I was too busy changing diapers, so I declined.

So what gives? Am I conservative or progressive? Do I want to change everything, or remain parked with the status quo? It depends on whom you ask.  My experiences have led me to ask, “In what way can, or should, we change the Army?”

In full disclosure, I am a person who loves intra-Army discussions and am invigorated by change. Hence, I am writing this article for Scott Strissel and indulging myself as I do so.  I enjoy expressing my passions about the Army so much that I have found it to be a temptation for me. However, my efforts to “change the Army” shouldn’t keep me from “being the Army” while living out my covenant.

While at training, a staff officer said to a group of Cadets, “If you think you became an officer to change the Army, you are in the wrong place [officership, training college, etc.].” There are several ways to think about what is involved in “changing the Army.”

One way to enter these discussions is to list “non–negotiables,” as did General Clifton and General Rader. They have been helpful for my understanding of Salvation Army theology and practice. So when considering change you can ask yourself, “Are any of these values compromised in the process?” Other methods use mission statements, branding promises, or core values to achieve a similar response to proposed changes. For the Salvationist, and particularly the Officer, I suggest Covenant-centered change. If a simple test had to be administered it should be this, go look at your Soldier’s Covenant (Articles of War) and ask, “Is this change in conflict with what I covenanted with God?”

What is it that has formed the essence of the church’s beliefs throughout its history; we could describe this as the canon or orthodoxy. The Army’s canon is most fully summarized in the covenant we share. It is expounded and clarified through Handbooks of Doctrine, Song Books, Year Books, and other publications.

Do some of these articles (doctrines) need nuancing? Probably, but that does not mean they need to change?  We need to explain what we mean by “…the divine rule…” We need to shade “total depravity” with prevenient grace. We need to carefully discuss and elaborate on what being “wholly sanctified” is and is not. We need to clarify that we are not platonic philosophers as we present a Christian version of “immortality of the soul.” It could be an American stylistic bias, but I wouldn’t mind gender neutrality in the human pronouns. These pieces are all consistent with how the Army does theology and I don’t think they need, or should, change.

There are areas where I desire to see the Army change. I would love to see a renewed understanding of how we approach training and the connection therein to officer recruitment. A more nuanced conversation on sacraments would be helpful and welcomed. We probably need to do better in understanding the complexities of the marriage relationship in officership and how the dynamics of shared and separate appointments can work. The uniform and its use should be updated or changed as we seek to be a visible people. I have at times found myself helpfully and humbly corrected by experienced officers who have helped shape and refine my “ideas.”

The biggest change I would like to see is this – more soldiers, more corps, and more officers, bringing more people to Christ’s saving grace. This is a necessary change.

Changes that call us to redefine marriage, cut certain articles of our faith, reject original sin, deny the substitutionary nature of the cross, get rid of our name, become a formal high church that is a liturgically drenched denomination or embracing universalism all are changes that move us away from a centered identity, these changes are outside of the scope of Covenant-centered change. These changes are instead, Covenant-rejecting changes.
So what of those changes? First, questions lead to answers and we need to ask good questions to get to good answers. When I was learning to swim in the discipline of theological studies, I had to work through each article of faith. When I came up for air I discovered a richness in Army theology that humbled me.

Second, if you come up for air in your search for truth and are resolutely opposed to the Army’s theology and you can no longer affirm the covenant, and if you are trying to make changes that move away from the canon of Salvation Army teaching or Covenant-centered change, I wonder if you should find another institution in which to serve. I say that not in cruelty or anger, but in love. These things will not change in the Army. I am no psychologist, but I think your life would be much more fulfilled in another movement if this is the sort of change you seek.

A wise senior officer, who taught many years at the training college, described his approach in teaching the doctrines in our covenant. “Andy, I am not telling Cadets what they should believe, I am expanding on what they have covenanted their lives to believing and teaching.”

If the changes I desire remain unchanged, then I trust God. Continued growth and relevance is contingent on our ability to adapt to our changing world. However, that change must be centered in the covenant which unites every Salvationist.

Forward to the Fight!,

Andy Miller III

Check out my book, Holistic Hospitality: A Bridge to a Future Army, via this the link here.

Miller

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