“Re-filling The Well.”

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” – Mark Twain

To those today questioning your self-worth…you are important and loved.
To the person seeking hope in what seems to be a hopeless dark mass of despair, God’s light will shine and guide you through this.
To the person who has been beaten down by the world, has zero confidence left and wonders if they matter at all – well, guess what – YOU DO!

Why do we need to hear words of encouragement and comfort?
That is probably a dumb question, isn’t it?
We want, no that’s not a strong enough word, we all need a sense of belonging, acceptance, love and knowledge that who and what we do matters.

So let me ask you, when was the last time someone affirmed that in you?
When was the last time you felt that deep warmth of belonging?
I’m not just talking about your workplace or career, I’m talking about every facet of your life. Do you have a well of encouragement from yourself and others to draw from? If not, just like water in a desert, it can evaporate and run dry. We need to constantly draw from this well of assurance and encouragement. That’s why God provides to us companionship and friendship. We cannot go about our lives on our own. We cannot live vicariously through episodes we binge watch on Netflix. We need other humans and their interaction in our lives to help us draw from this well again and again.

This isn’t to say that we become an attention sponge or needy in our attempts to self-congratulate ourselves, but rather we find a healthy medium of friendships that challenge us, drive us forward and offers to us a safe space where we can refill our minds, bodies and souls.

Image result for touching hands


I am sorry if this sounds like an episode of Dr Phil, but the truth of the matter is far too many of us are running on empty when it comes to deep accountability, encouragement and human connection. We were made for fellowship with God and that of other human beings. We need to be encouraged and to encourage others – thereby refilling that well over and over again. -This is humanity…this is where we live and breathe and where we exist…we may want to dissect ourselves and separate it all out in neat little compartments, but at the end of the day humanity is us and we are humanity.

Image result for reaching out


Questions:
Who can you encourage today?
What will you say to them? What will you do for them?
How can you brighten someone’s day? It is not something mystical, but what we find when we encourage is that we too are drawing from that well…we too are replenished and renewed. Encouragement, love and a sense of community is infectious and our world needs more of it.

Be encouraged today…“He who began a good work in you will carry it on into completion.” Philippians 1:6

Go and refill the well.
Something more to ponder today.

Silence is a Killer…A Devotional Pondering.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let’s face it, we all encounter difficult days…some more difficult than others.
There are days that we can manage on our own, and then there are days when we are completely floored by the problems that come our way.  The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…

I know what you’re thinking, “that doesn’t sound very encouraging to me”…let me finish:
The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…but we were never meant to handle it all on our own.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, the new believers in Thessalonica were encountering all kinds of trouble.  Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia which boasted over 200,000 people.  This city was known for being a military and commercial port city.  So within this large city in Macedonia, these young Christians were encountering all sorts of trouble – even persecution and death because of their new-found declarations of faith.  In the midst of their living testimonies, they longed for the day of Christ’s return.  What does that mean?  They lived in fear every single day, and couldn’t wait for Christ to come back.   And so these young Christians lived expectant lives while encouraging each other onward.

The persecution in Thessalonica must have been fierce for the Apostle Paul to remind them that they needed one another and they ought to continue (“just as you are doing”) to encourage one another.

Let’s put this into perspective:
We might not be facing certain death for our faith, instead we might be struggling to pay rent, finding funds to feed our families, enduring a tough problem at work or at home…all of these situations are arduous and, at times they keep us up at night.
The killer is silence. 
What do I mean?
We think no other Christian is struggling, and if they are it must mean that their faith isn’t strong enough.  This could not be further from the truth.
We have this idea that we shouldn’t let other Christians know how discouraged we really are, because we don’t want them to think less of us.  Because we don’t want others to talk.  Because we fear judgment of others.  Because we believe in the perfect Christian life that really doesn’t exist…because we’ve bought the lie that to be a Christian means we don’t struggle with these things anymore.

And so, silence is a killer.
No one knows.
We don’t share.
And our hurts go unchecked, unnoticed, and unaddressed.

Dear Christian,
How can we encourage one another if we aren’t being honest with each other?
How can we carry each other’s burdens if we allow silence to slowly kill our souls?
We cannot continue to buy the lie that everything is fine when we face times of trial and we keep it private.  (Some will laugh at this and say, but church is full of hypocrites and gossipers…then find REAL believers in whom you can confide!)

Healing can begin with out this kind of encouragement, but long is the process and deep the scars.  When we have others who will journey beside us, and encourage us, we will find added strength, hope, abundance and encouragement.

Don’t let silence kill you.

4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong

First of all let me set the record straight, if we aren’t following Christ and desiring to be like Him in every way, then we really shouldn’t call ourselves Christians.  That’s a bold statement, but it’s true.  We can’t understand who this Jesus guy is, unless we actually read and study His life.   What did He teach?  What did He do?  With whom did He associate with, and who did Jesus heal?  When we study who Jesus was and is, we begin to see the kind of life that we are also called to live – if we are to follow Him.

Today, I would like to focus on just 4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong.
It should be noted that there are more ways to get this wrong, but for the sake of time, lets cover just four.

  1.   Emotionalism:  crying
    I used to despise altar calls.  (There, I’ve said it, phew what a weight off of my chest)
    Why did I despise altar calls?  It wasn’t because I was running away from the Holy Spirit, but rather I was running away from what I felt was manipulation.  That sounds rather bold, and perhaps you will disagree with me, but isn’t there an element of the rehearsed, “I’m going to pull on your heart strings” emotionalism that can sometimes be present in altar calls?  Some denominations have basically built their entire church on “feeling”.But let me ask you, what happens to those who just don’t “feel” it?  Are they just not in touch with the Holy Spirit?  I would add that some have walked away from the faith because of these kinds of emotionalism doctrines thinking to themselves, “I must not be good enough, or emotionally vulnerable enough, because I just don’t feel the way the rest of the church feels.”

    Don’t get me wrong, when the Holy Spirit falls upon His people (and He does) we know it, but it isn’t always tied up in our emotions and tear ducts.  Altar calls certainly have their place, but when it is not genuine, but rather stats driven…then it’s merely manipulation, and I don’t think that’s truly God-honoring.  Don’t manipulate people into coming to an altar when there isn’t even an altar in their hearts yet for Him.  That desire comes from knowing Him through the fellowship of other believers – also known as discipleship.

    I am also not discouraging the use of the altar, it can be a wonderful, glorious place to receive Christ and to rededicate ones life, but it has been mistreated, overused and used to manipulate others as well.  Use it wisely!

  2. me2It’s All About ME!
    The problem with an individualistic society is the loss of “others”.  No, we do not lose the sense of others around us, but rather the desire to help others, or to see the needs of others before our own.   Jesus indicated to His disciples that if they were to be great, they had to first serve others.  Our world teaches us through our own experiences, and we rely on these self-experiences to get us through life…but what if we’re missing the experience to serve others?  Couldn’t serving others actually teach us more about ourselves as well as how God sees all of us?The problem with modern Christianity and Church is the need to find a place to be “fed”, but we never seek to feed others.  If we find the first, but neglect the latter – we have missed the entire point of Christianity.  Too often we see out churches to entertain us, to meet our needs, and to watch our children…but isn’t there more to going to church?  Isn’t there more involved in being a Christian?

    We get Christianity wrong when we internalize God’s blessing, but never make the effort to externalize it for others.

  3. The Christian Fast-Food Menu Order plate
    Another component to the individualistic society that we live in is to use the Bible as a fast-food menu.  By that I mean we can sometimes pick and choose the statements and teachings in the Bible that matches our lifestyle choices so that we feel less guilt, when all along we know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us…and at times convicting us.  We can all be guilty of this, and it can be easy to gloss over portions of scripture that don’t necessarily mesh with what we’ve chosen to put into our lives.Jesus consolidated the Ten Commandments into to very important truths:
    1. Love God (Heart, Mind, Soul, Body)
    2. And love Others.
    When we do those two things and actually practice them in our lives the truth of the rest of scripture becomes real in our lives.  By that I mean, we are more in tune with the Holy Spirit and more willing to listen to His calling.
  4. Commitment Is Vacant
    commitmentWe live in a very fast-paced world.
    We literally have the world in the palms of our hands with smart devices that are linked to almost every place in the world.  Isn’t it funny that we can spend 5-10 hours a day scrolling on our phones, but when it comes time to go to Bible Study or that group you said you would go to – we can’t seem to find the time.

    This isn’t a guilt trip – this is simply the truth.
    We might make excuses like, “Well, they really won’t miss me.”  or “It’s just not for me.” or even, “That study is BORING!”…but what we miss out when we don’t commit is human connection with other Christians brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all imperfect and faulty…some ARE boring…some ARE not really geared for you…but the connection with other Christ-followers is vital!

    Yes, we all have families.
    Yes, we all have busy schedules – and time is a precious commodity, but if you can spend 5 hours + on Facebook, you can spend 5 minutes a day doing devotions or praying to the Lord.  For some of you who have that commitment, I applaud you – keep going!  Some of us need to get into some spiritual shape…and we need to actually commit.

These are just 4 Ways We Get Christianity Wrong…for what it’s worth.
Blessings on you!

If It’s Not Broke…Then Break It.

There is a problem with our self-reliance.
Independence is a great thing, but are we independent from God?
Do we only require God’s help when it gets tough and we use God like a panic button?
The problem with self-reliance isn’t about having too much control, it’s about the willful choice of not surrendering.

what?
But isn’t surrendering a sign of weakness?

Not when it comes to surrendering to God.
He desires it.
Longs for it.
Yet, so few of us ACTUALLY surrender ourselves completely to Him.

Did you know that only reason Christianity spread so far and wide in the Acts church is because they were shattered and scattered?   Act chapter 8 records the shattering of the church as Saul persecutes Christ-followers.  Before he becomes Paul, he plays this vital role of breaking… broken

Without the breaking we don’t have a gospel message that goes far and wide.
Still today, without the breaking, I fear our witness becomes far too comfortable and contained…so much so that Satan doesn’t have to worry about us anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t long for the breaking…no one ever truly longs for such a time, but sometimes it is needed.

Could there be a need of breaking in your life right now?
Have you become comfortable in your faith or church or current state of life right now?
God desires our full surrender, and unfortunately, sometimes the only way for us to become fully committed and surrendered to Him is to be broken…to be shattered again.

What needs to be broken in your life in order for you to grow spiritually again?
What must you surrender to God in order to truly live for Him?
My fear in this time and era of the Church is that there are far too many Christians comfortably numb to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  I am afraid that many churches and Christians in the Western world are asleep and unaware of what God longs to do.

We have to WAKE UP.
We have to be shattered and broken again.
Without this, I am unsure if any of us will truly know the freedom of living by faith in God’s grace…because we haven’t invested or stepped beyond what we are comfortable with.  Did you catch that?

What WE are comfortable with.
There is no inclusion of His presence in that statement.
It’s all about what WE feel, and what WE want, and what WE can get from it…
broken2
God,
SHATTER me again.
Lord,
BREAK me.

May it be our desire to be fully surrendered.
Not in our own time and convenience.
Not because we have nothing better to do, or we “freed up” some time in our schedules.
BUT, because it’s what God desires from us.
FULL and COMPLETE Surrender.

Father,
Break us again.

AMEN.

Lenten Messy Church – Temptation

Key Verses:  Matthew 4:1-11, 26:36-45, 69-75

The Theme is – How to be Strong, Prayer & Lenten/Easter

We all face temptations in life, but how and where do we find the inner strength to say ‘no’ to what is harmful and instead choose what is best?  How do we decide what is dangerous, especially if something looks ‘right’?

Christians believe that God’s words in the Bible can help us know the right path to take and that God promises through Jesus to make us strong enough to choose the way.  Jesus faced temptation about the best way to rescue the world during his 40 days in the desert.  He also prayed in the garden of Gathsemane in a moment of true temptation and sorrow, just before he suffered an illegal trial, beating, humiliation and death on the cross – all for the purpose of our salvation.  Jesus used God’s words from the Bible to help him know the right thing to do.  Peter, at the same time faced the temptation of denying Jesus, just as Jesus had predicted.  How would we fair when the pressure mounted?

Activities:  Each Station should last 10 minutes.
(Items Needed) 
Station 1
Items needed:  Large Jenga Blocks (or small ones if you can’t find the larger versions)
Station 2 Items needed:  Construction paper, sand, glue, cotton balls, markers, sticks
Station 3 Items needed:  Pre-make cupcakes stacked and ready, get some colored frosting or add food dye to vanilla frosting for extra colors.  Add sprinkles and other toppings.
Station 4 Items needed:  Large puzzle (with perhaps large sized pieces)
Station 5 Items needed:  strips of construction paper of the following colors –
Red = Sorry
Yellow = Thanks
Pink = Please
Blue = Other People
Green = Our Community
Purple = Our World
And a strip of paper for each participant with the scripture passage printed on it.
Tape, Markers, pencils, crayons.


IMG_4724 

Station 1 –  Build a Tower (10 Minutes)
Use Giant Jenga Blocks, to construct the tallest tower that they can in 7 minutes or less (give time at the end to discuss the questions below).
Scripture Verse:  “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down…” Matthew 4:5-6

Talk About:  How do you decide what is risky to do and what is safe?
(Say) Jesus was tempted by Satan before His ministry began and one of the temptations, Satan took Jesus to Jerusalem and stood on the highest place (probably the top of a tower) and he told Jesus to throw himself off.  What do you think Jesus did?  Answer:  He resisted the devil and told him “Do not put the Lord your God to the test
It is important to know what is risky and what is safe in life, and it is also very important to resist temptations when they come.  God will give you the strength if you ask Him for His help!


Station 2 – Sand Art:  (10 Minutes)
Create a collage of a desert scene involving sand, glue, small cotton balls for stones and IMG_4729maybe some dead twigs if you can find enough for your groups.
Scripture Verse“The Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matthew 4:1,2)

Talk About:  What gives you strength to survive hard times?
When is life like a dry desert?  Is it always easy to pray?  When is it hard to pray?
(Say) Even in the desert times of our lives, God promises to never leave us or forsake us.  It might be hard to believe sometimes, but it’s true.  When we call out to God, He hears us and He is very near.  So where are some places that we can pray?  Do we have to be on our knees to pray?


Station 3 – Cup Cake Decoration table: (10 Minutes)
IMG_4717
Decorate cup cakes with various colors of frosting and sprinkles (the more toppings the better)
Leader Ask:  “what temptations do you find hard to resist?”
Say – just like these tasty looking cupcakes that we are lathering on frosting, temptations can often appeal to us.  We might hear one of our parents tell us not to eat that cookie, but we feel the temptation and maybe sometimes we act on that temptation by taking the cookie we were told not to take.

Ask:  Jesus was led into the desert where he was tempted by the devil, do you think Jesus gave into those temptations?  (No).
How can we avoid the traps of temptation?  Who do you think will give us the strength to resist temptation in our Life?  (God)  IMG_4716
Scripture Verse:  “Jesus said to him (the devil), “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Matthew 4:7


 

 

Station 4 – Puzzle Table: (10 Minutes)
IMG_4745 1
Have a large piece puzzle (something that might be accomplished in under 10 minutes) out for the group to put together.  As the puzzle is being put together Ask:  How do you know which puzzle pieces fit in the right place on this puzzle?  What happens when they don’t fit?  How would you go about rescuing the world from the mess it sometimes gets itself into?  Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  He took His disciples with Him.  He was about to put the world back together again.  Because of sin, the world was broken like this puzzle, and no one else could save us except for Jesus.  But he struggled with this life and death decision, because it would mean that He would have to ACTUALLY suffer and die.  So all night long Jesus prayed to the Father to help Him with these important pieces of the puzzle of sin.
Scripture Verse: “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray”…and He began to be sorrowful and troubled.”  Matthew 26:36-37

Ask: Why did you think it was so hard for Jesus?
Do you think any other puzzle piece  (besides Jesus) would have fit into this story of Salvation for the world?
Say:  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the World that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (The puzzle is complete!!)

 



Station 5 – “Prayer Chains”:  (10 Minutes)  IMG_4743
Create prayer chains with multi-colored strips of paper.
Red = Sorry
Yellow = Thanks
Pink = Please
Blue = Other People
Green = Our Community
Purple = Our World

Write or draw your prayers on the corresponding colored paper strips, then add them together using tape to make a prayer chain that each person will take home with them.

Leader:  While the prayer chains are being created, ask – “Who do you want to ask God to give strength to at the moment?  Are there times when you need that strength in your own life?

Say:  Peter was very afraid when Jesus was arrested.  People came up to him on that night and kept asking him if he was one of the disciples of Jesus…and because Peter was really afraid and lacked the courage, he denied even knowing Jesus.

Ask:  Are there times when we are afraid to admit that we are followers of Jesus too?  How does God giving strength help us through difficult moments in life?  Do you believe that God hears our prayers?  Are there special words that we are required to use in order to get God’s attention?  (No!)

Say:  God knows what we need before we ask Him, but He wants us to talk to Him.  We can talk to Him about our troubles and fears as well as asking Him to help with the troubles and fears of other people we know, like our parents, grandparents, cousins, neighbors, school friends, teachers and so on.  God hears us when we pray to Him!

Scripture Verse:  “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 (Message Version)

(Include this passage on a piece of paper for every person to attach to their prayer chain).
IMG_4713

 

 

 

 


Devotions:   (5-10 minutes) 
Recap the Scripture passages and the theme of temptation and God’s strength helping us overcome the lures of temptation.  Close with a chorus (we did “The Joy of the Lord is my strength”)

Lenten Perspectives Day 5b – Featuring Cadet Justin Steckbauer

Where did the human race come from?  Did we evolve out of space dust and starlight?  Or were we designed for a specific purpose?  That is the ultimate question.  But even if we were to say evolution is true, which is a stretch, where did the material for the universe come from?  A big bang can’t explode from nothing.  That doesn’t make sense.  So it’s logical to believe then, that the best explanation for our universe, our planet, and ourselves, is that an intelligent creative eternal being made the universe, and made us.

Therefore, God does exist.  But who is God?  I believe God has revealed himself through something we call, “The Bible.” The Bible has been criticized a great deal, many say it’s just a book full of stories, it’s just myths, it has contradictions, all of these attacks are levied, and Christians are criticized, and are said to be bigoted and hypocritical.

But is this really true?  I believe that we can trust the Bible.  In fact the biblical documents we have today have been trusted by billions of people through history that believed God really came to Earth, as the person of Jesus Christ.  Thousands of archaeological discoveries have been made by using the Bible.  And the Bible matches with history, we see countries like Syria, Babylon, and the Roman empire, real civilizations interacting with biblical history.  The truth is we can trust the Bible.

And if we’ve been hurt by Christians who have not lived up to the standard of Christ, we should remember, that we are not called to follow other Christians, we’re called to follow Jesus Christ alone.  I’d encourage you today, as you eat your meal, think about these things.  Think about how everything in the universe fits together so well, that the food on your plates is designed just right to nourish your body.  And remember that the hands that serve this food say without a doubt that they do so because Jesus has saved them, and they feel called to serve others.

Jesus Christ, the God-man come to Earth, came on a rescue mission to save all of us from sin.  Sin are those things in our lives that separate us from God: things that cause us pain, that hurt our relationships, things we’ve done wrong, things like selfishness, self-seeking, and pride.  Jesus came to save us from all of that.

And he saved me from all of that.  At one point in my life I had lost all hope.  I was addicted to drugs for years, and my family had given up on me.  My soul had turned grey, and everything seemed dark, and hopeless in my life.  I had given up on ever having a better life, on ever being ok again.  Can you relate?  But then someone told me about one name, the name, Jesus Christ.  There is power in that name.  And I went on my knees and cried out, “Jesus help me, Jesus save me.”  And He swept into my life, changed me internally into a new person, and put me to work for his kingdom.

Seek Him in your life.  Fall on your knees and cry out to Him.  Now is the time of salvation.  Keep this in your mind: When you are at the bottom, cry out to Jesus: Cry out Jesus save me! Jesus help me!  He will answer.  Trust in Him. Reaffirm your trust in Him.  Make certain He is the center of your life.  He is our real, living Savior.

Justin

 

-Justin Steckbauer is a first year Cadet in the Central Territory USA.

Lenten Perspectives Day 5a – Featuring Cadet Aaron Johnson

As we enter into the Lenten season, let us remember that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. On the third day He was raised from the dead, defeating the dark forces of sin and death. As we contemplate the sacrifice of Christ, we should also ponder our willingness to sacrifice for Him. God calls us out of the world and into the life He has planned for us, knowing our daily struggles. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, we hear Jesus state to Paul concerning a personal struggle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  As believers our joy is not grounded in our circumstances. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ has won the victory and our earthly home is not our forever home, but at times it seems impossible for us to sacrifice everything in order for us to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. These are the times we need to remember that it is not by anything that we have done that we are saved, but by God’s grace and mercy. Each day we should count it a blessing that we have been called apart from the rest of the world to be a living sacrifice for Jesus Christ. The act of submitting to the will of God, just as Jesus submitted to the will of His Father, is the reason we were created. God desires a relationship with us, giving strength to face each obstacles in God’s power.

Today, take time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s calling on your life. Is there something in which you need to relinquish control? Ask God to grant you His power to sacrifice the things in your life which do not lead to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end, you may find that giving up the things which you so greedily hold on to, was the easiest thing you’ve ever done in light of Christ’s sacrifice for His children.

Aaron Johnson

 

Cadet Aaron Johnson is a second year Cadet in the Central Territory USA.

Lenten Perspectives Day 3 – Featuring Bob Hostetler

Where Jesus Died

 READ: I Corinthians 15:1-5

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3b, NIV)

In family devotions with our two young children, my wife and I often repeated the story of Calvary and Jesus’ death on a cross. We were not sure of the story’s impact on our son’s and daughter’s minds until one day when we were driving cross-country on a car trip.

As the miles rolled by under our car, we suddenly spied in the distance a hill with three crosses outlined clearly on the summit. My children watched silently until we began to pass the hilltop arrangement. Finally, in a voice of awe, my four-year-old son whispered, “Daddy, is that where Jesus died?”

I tried tenderly to explain that, no, the place where Jesus died was far from that hillside.

I’ve since come to regard my answer as a little hasty. Of course, Jesus did die at a specific spot on the surface of the earth. But in another sense, maybe He did die on that hillside, if that is where one of His children came to faith in Him. For me, He “died” at a scratched and pitted wooden campground altar. For one of my friends, it was literally a ditch beside a country road. For others, the place was a storefront church or a kitchen table. Perhaps that’s what hymnwriter (and Salvation Army general) Albert Orsborn meant when he wrote, “On every hill our Saviour dies, and not on Calvary’s height alone,” for wherever I accept His love and sacrifice, that place becomes a Calvary.


On every hill our Saviour dies,

And not on Calvary’s height alone;

His sorrows darken all our skies,

His griefs for all our wrongs atone.


Present he is in all our woes,

Upon a world-wide cross is hung;

And with exceeding bitter throes

His world-embracing heart is wrung.

Chorus

Go! Cry the news from every hill;

Go! Ring the earth with sacred flame;

To pardon is the Father’s will,

And Jesus is the Saviour’s name.

PRAYER: Jesus, keep me near the cross where, as a trembling soul, love and mercy found me.

 THOUGHT: The cross of Christ spans the ages and the miles to meet the needy soul. . . anywhere.

Bob Bob Hostetler is an award winning and best-selling author whose work is prolific.  He is also a gifted speaker and pastor.  

http://www.bobhostetler.com

 

Lenten Perspective Pondering – Featuring Cadet Bobby Key

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.”  -Psalm 51:17

I have never been much of a lent observer. You know, the part where people give up certain things for the entirety of Lent. I understand the meaning behind it, and why people do this, but it never appealed to me. As I get ready to graduate from seminary in a few months, God has been revealing His word to me in a new and exciting ways. So, this year, for the first time ever, I gave up sugar. Anyone who knows me knows how difficult this really is. The first day was awful. It is all I thought about all day. I thought about it in class, when I was at home with my family, and even in the middle of the night. All I wanted to do was give up.

As a young teenager, I often felt this way about Jesus. I felt that following Him was too difficult. I thought about all of the things that I would have to give up. I even felt like the Israelites at times. The forgiveness of sins required too much. I would never be able to live a holy life, and I was tired of disappointing God. Giving up on my faith seemed like the right thing to do.

Even though I had all of these feelings of failure and frustration, I pressed on. I did not give up. Just like I am doing in this season of lent. A little over a week into it, and it has gotten much easier. I still think about the things I am giving up, but it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. There are cupcakes, and cookies, and ice cream that I miss, but these are the times when I turn to him in prayer. This is what lent is all about, isn’t it? What is the thing that I need to give up that will draw me closer to the heart of Jesus?

This verse from Psalms is the verse I have been claiming this past year. David has just been confronted by Nathan about his transgression with Bathsheba. David is in deep anguish. He is crying out to God for forgiveness. Even though David needs to sacrifice burnt offerings, he knows that what God really wants is our heart. What God really wants from is our broken heart. A broken heart because we have broken His. He wants us to come before Him with a contrite spirit, a spirit that is deeply remorseful and affected by our guilt. God wants us to bring this to his feet. Lent reminds me to draw close to Him. It reminds me of the sacrifice He made for me on the cross. All He wants is me. All of me. Rest in the promise today that “God will not despise the sacrifices of our broken heart and contrite spirit.”

 -Cadet Bobby Key is a second year Cadet in the Central Territory USA, soon to be commissioned.-

Dear Salvation Army, For THY Mission Make Me Holy

Dear Salvationist, the movement of This Army of Salvation is inexplicably wrapped up in the holiness of the body of Christ.  Without this deep desire to be Holy and then to do holiness towards others, we become just another social service organization.  In the midst of doing the most good, often times the danger of making the mission ours and ours alone can squelch the desire to seek after God’s mission first.   How then shall we best serve the Lord and then others?

This is the main thrust of our pondering today, for I fear we as an Army have, in some ways, lost the “main thing” while in the pursuit of human approval and for our recognition of the works of our hands.
The question then becomes, “how can we shift our focus back to the mission of God?”

Here are four statements to help realign or replace our mission with God’s mission:

  1. Many lose the mission because surrender was never an option.  hat

This statement becomes deeply personal, for at the heart of such a declaration the defensive walls are raised, and we begin to tune out…don’t tune out, instead stare it dead in the eyes.  Is surrender an option…a REAL option in our hearts and lives?

We don’t like to submit to anything, because many times submission means we lose and someone else wins; but that’s not how God works.  When we submit to God, His mission and purpose becomes our mission and purpose for being.  We do not lose our identities in this, we gain our true new creation, the identity God has always intended for us to be.  From the very beginning of our being, God was present and He saw what and who we could be, but it is in our surrender that this identity can only be fully realized.

Since we have free will, the notion to surrender to the mission of God instead of command the mission is a foreign notion.  We want power to decide.  We long to be the captains of our own ship, and so the mission might be lost at the expense of our identities and authority.

  1. An accomplished mission at the sacrifice of holiness is no mission worth living.

bloodI once heard the story of a captain of a ship whose vessel had run aground and was in the process of sinking.  Many people were frantically evacuating on lifeboats, while there were still who were trapped below.  A noble captain would make every effort to save everyone, even to the point of one’s own life; but this captain discarded all sense of duty and ethics by abandoning his own ship, leaving the rest of the passengers to fend for themselves, many perished for lack of rescue.

Dear fellow Salvationists, there is the temptation in our army to do the most work instead of doing the most good, and in the process of doing the most work, the ethics of holiness could very well be abandoned.  I have heard story after story of officers and soldiers who have neglected their first ministry (their children and family) at the expense of their appointment, mission and public perception (both in and out of the army leadership realm).   Such a loss of first mission leads to a mission not worth living for!

We can grow the largest corps ministry in our territory and have lost everything if our own children turn from God because we failed to disciple them, and we left them to their own devices.  We were never appointed by the Army to be people pleasers.  We were never appointed to ministries apart from our families.  We cannot be effective, holiness teachers apart from God’s holy mission…but we cannot accomplish mission without holy living to our first ministry.

Our focus, before we feed a hungry soul, and before we DO anything, is to live within the very presence of God.  We must yearn and strive for such an image in our own life – the very image of Christ in us.  Without the image of Christ visible and living through us, our hands and the good they may do, will only serve the temporary and not the eternal purpose for which we have been ordained and called.

3.  Why mission? Whose mission? Happy Mission? mission2

Why do we do the things we do?  Is there a purpose behind it?  Are we not called by God to go into all the world, making disciples of every people?  (Matt. 28:19)

If we have to realign our mission, we first must go back to the original source of our that mission!  Who is it that commands our lives, and longs for our surrender?  Why is He calling us to this deeper purpose?  How can this all be done?

prayerChrist called not the qualified, but he qualified the called.  We don’t need to wait for that degree to be completed before we commit to His mission.  We don’t need to wait until we are older before we commit to His mission, nor should we delay for any other reason!!  The God of Abraham and Moses and David, still calls us to go.  The God the disciples served still calls us to go into all the world.  Our mission hasn’t changed, but has our priorities?  Have we neglected our first love?  Have we become distracted by other missions and other “services” that really have nothing to do with His mission?  If so, perhaps it’s time to discard those distractions…and once again follow Him.

4.  Before, during and after = Holy!

altarHow long must we be a holiness movement?
How long do we live this way?
This call to holiness in our service to God is not a temporary calling.
This is not a disguise we throw on to convince others or ourselves.
NO!  This is a conscious decision to ACTUALLY live for Him in every moment of every day.

Our Very Breath.
It has been said, that the ancient writers of scripture wouldn’t even write the name of God because it was far too sacred.  But if they had to record God within the text, they would use the letters YHWH or YHVH…Yahweh is spoken and you cannot help but speak it like you breathe.  In other words, may the name of God be the VERY breath you take every. single. moment. of. every. day.

So before we live mission – YHWH…
While we live mission – YHWH…
After each particular mission or victory is accomplished – YHWH…

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
If we are to live and breathe the mission of our Army, we first must live and breathe the mission of God into our lungs, into our lives, into the very fibers of who we are…and whose we are.

Because let’s face, leaders can let us down…
Volunteers can let us down…
Employees can let us down…
Friends and fellow Salvationists can let us down…

But God will never fail us or forsake us!

Dear Salvation Army,
without Holiness, our mission fails.
without committed Soldiership, our plans fall apart.
without a sincere love of Christ, and for others, the great commission that is wrapped up in our Blood and Fire flag will become a lost cause by disinterested and apathetic individuals looking to fulfill only themselves.  We are called to greater things.  We have been commissioned for the whole world, not just our own little bubbles.

Perhaps it’s time to re-explore our mission and purpose once more.

For Thy mission make me holy,
  for Thy glory make me Thine
  sanctify each moment fully
  fill my life with love divine.”

verse 2

Have I lost the sense of mission
That inspired my early zeal,
When the fire of thy commission
Did my dedication seal?
Let me hear thy tender pleading,
Let me see thy beckoning hand,
Let me feel thee gently leading
As I bow to thy command.

3.
Lord, release that latent passion
Which in me has dormant lain;
Recreate a deep compassion
That will care and care again.
Needy souls are still my mission,
Sinners yet demand my love;
This must be my life’s ambition,
This alone my heart shall move.

-Brindley Boon
(SASB #682)

Something more for our Army to ponder today.
God Bless You!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑