Day 16 -Living In God’s Sanctuary…

“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  Why may live on your holy hill?  He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous…” Psalm 15:1-2a

When we choose to follow Christ in our lives and live for Him every day, we are not only called Sons and Daughter of God, but we have access to His sanctuary.

What does that mean?
It means that the very presence of God can remain with us every moment of every day.
In essence we have the Creator of the Universe with us to guide and provide.  In ancient times the only ones who could gain access to the Holy of holies were the priests who kept themselves ceremonially clean.  The Holy of holies was the place where the very presence was said to reside.  On the day and hour of Christ’s death, the curtain, which separated the temple from the Holy of holies was torn from top to bottom.  tornThis was more than coincidental, this signified God’s presence would no longer just reside in the temple, but He could be accessed by everyone all because of what Christ did on the cross.

How does this make you feel, knowing that God’s presence is accessible and readily available for you and me?  He longs to be a part of our day.  He wants to fellowship with us, to commune and guide us in our day.  When we enter into this fellowship, we are in the very sanctuary of God!  Each of us are called to be set apart for God, so how we live and how we interact with the world around us matters!  We can live as Kingdom people as we enter into His sanctuary every day!  May we walk into His presence and live this kingdom living today!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for allowing us access to you because of your son Jesus Christ!  I want dwell in your sanctuary everyday!  Be with me today, and as I interact with others, bring to my mind your grace, peace and love.  In your name I pray all of these things amen!
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Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Today is National Prayer day.
So let’s talk about prayer shall we?!

We have these images in our minds when we think about the word “Prayer”…perhaps it looks like this:  handsor maybe maybe this:
gardenThese iconic images of prayer are okay, but are they really what prayer looks like and should be for us today?  Don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting some of us might fold our hands like this when we pray, but by and large our prayer life probably looks more like this:

car.jpg

Driving back and forth from home to work, only to repeat this process.  Perhaps after a really good, challenging Sunday service we might feel compelled to be more intentional about prayer and so we turn off the radio and simply talk to God.  Realistically, the World around us seems to be a constantly busy place and our prayer life can begin to be measured out in how long it takes us to get to work.

Still there are some of us whose prayer life resembles this:
sleep
We work hard all day long and when it comes time for us to go to bed we think about prayer.  So we pray, and we are serious about it, but at the end of the day we are completely spent and so our prayers fall into sounds of deep breathing and even snoring.

I don’t say this as a guilt trip, because I’ve been guilty of this too.  We mean well, it’s just that our bodies and our minds are tired and we drift off to sleep.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer:
This will probably be unpopular among many Christians, but we are too soft.  We are not as disciplined as we should be in regards to prayer.  Instead of looking like this in our prayer life:  runing

(We don’t take the intentional time we need.  We aren’t focused.  We lack the discipline to keep going.  We struggle with many distractions such as TV, cell phones, social media, websites, books, video game…etc. )

So we end up looking more like this in regards to the discipline of prayer:
couch
And the only time we pull out our prayers, our conversations to God, is when we are in need of something.  Could it be that THIS is why we feel as if God isn’t listening?  Perhaps because we haven’t really disciplined ourselves enough to have a constant conversation with Him?

It’s like the couch potato suddenly gettingug up from the comfortable sofa and putting on their shoes and attempting to run a marathon without any training.  Sure, some might actually finish, but by and large most would fall flat on their faces in utter exhaustion.

Prayer takes work.  
Real prayer isn’t a bunch of “Thees” and “Thous” thrown into some fancy sentence full of flowery meaningless words.  God doesn’t want our ritualistic prayers.  He doesn’t want us to be something we’re not.  He wants our authenticity.  He longs for us to be completely candid with Him.  He already knows us, there’s nothing hidden from Him…so why do we feel as if we have to put up a wall or limit what we say to Him?

Brother Lawrence, in his little book called “The Practice of the Presence of God” said this; “Do not be discouraged by the resistance you will encounter from your human nature; you must go against your human inclinations. Often, in the beginning, you will think that you are wasting time, but you must go on, be determined and persevere in it until death, despite all the difficulties.
― (The Practice of the Presence of God)

True prayer requires concerted effort.
It might require us to become uncomfortable.
Discipline is required to spend time conversing with the Almighty.
It is not a waste of time.
He does hear us.
He will speak…but the question is are we actually listening?

Do we need prayer?
Absolutely…BUT perhaps prayer isn’t what we have always been taught it is.
Could it be that our prayers should resemble more of a constant invitation for God to hang out with us?  Could it be that instead of kneeling at our bedside,  we continually begin to think and speak to our Creator?  Perhaps we’ve been taught prayer is all about closing our eyes…maybe we should open them instead.  God longs for our fellowship, and a part of that fellowship is our constant communication with Him.  He is nearer than we think or realize.  But perhaps could it be that our hearts are not completely in tune with Him?  Perhaps we are out of sync due to our random, undisciplined prayer lives?

The Discipline of prayer is more than just a notch in the “Christian” belt of accomplishments (hopefully we don’t think of it like that), it is connect ourselves completely to the Divine.  It is a part of Holiness.  It is a part of the complete surrender the Holy Spirit is desiring from us.  For many of us, a complete surrender is really scary to think about.  Instead of thinking about the things we will give up, think about the life that we will gain and the peace and knowledge that brings.

I’m not there either, but I want to be.
Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Is The General Right?

This quote has bothered me, perhaps more than it should.
Is there more to this conversation that has not been quoted here that would cast a different light on this subject?  I do not presume to know everything, but I would like to attempt at interpreting this soundbite with your help.

Are we splitting hairs here, or is this a general assumption?
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I have seen this quote floating around for a day and a half, and I wonder if, perhaps some context is required before jumping to conclusions.

What does this quote mean?
What did the General mean when he said “Worshiping community”?
Are these two mutually exclusive or interconnected?

If I were to simply interpret this quote/sound bite, I would have to wonder why shouldn’t they be interconnected?  And also, what is so bad about being a worshiping community?
Another thought that comes to mind within this pondering then is this; wouldn’t a worshiping community’s bi-product or outpouring/ evidence of fruit be in the complete submission to God and the service of man – thereby being also a serving community?

If, I have interpreted this correctly, (and if I haven’t please correct me) I would have to disagree with the General.  I do not believe the Army’s paradigm has shifted nor has it’s hand to man.  This army of salvation certainly has an ever evolving identity within this world, but it’s mission, in my opinion, still remains firmly intact.

Is there fear that The Salvation Army is yearning to become a full-fledged Church somewhere?  From my small context of the Army world, I do not see that as an issue.  In fact, just the opposite would be my fear – we become, or have become far too Social Work heavy and lacking the “Heart to God” in our service.  With the ever increasing funding sources coming from governmental entities(at least in the U.S.), sometimes there is the fear that our hands become tied to preach the Gospel in His name while meeting the physical needs.

The Balancing Act…
I understand what the General is saying, if the context is correct, but I would have to counter with the notion that this is certainly a balancing act.  We serve the Almighty and through our discipleship, fellowship and worship we begin to understand how to better serve the world around us.   The pendulum certainly can sway in either direction and we must be mindful of it.  If we are properly aligned as an Army,  our worship and adoration of God will lead to the outpouring of service to man.

So is the General wrong?
Perhaps in places of the world this is true, but in this little corner of the world, I just don’t see it.

What do you think ?
Leave your comments below, share your thoughts on this and tell us what you think this means?

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.

*Disclaimer, this blog’s opinions and content does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of The Salvation Army.*

Spiritual Growth – A Lawnmower Theology

What do you mean by “Lawnmower theology”?  you might be asking…let me first tell you a story.

I was mowing the grass the other day.
I greatly enjoy mowing, it’s cathartic for me and it gives me time to think.
We just got a new lawnmower and I had to put it together before using it.
So I begin by putting the arm onto the mower body and attaching the pull lever to the extended arm.  Then I put the nuts and bolts into the connector holes at the bottom of the arm that actually attaches to the base of the mower.  Long story short, I merely tightened them with my fingers and did not use the tool needed to tighten it fully – I’m impatient like that sometimes.

I was really anxious to start up the new mower and get to mowing our neglected backyard.  So I start it up for the first time, and it just purrs – it was wonderful (I know I’m lawnmower nerd).   I begin to make my way around the yard, meticulously ensuring I don’t miss any wayward grass as I pass with the new machine.  It was really starting to look good…and then it happened – the arm that I had attached with the nuts and bolts came loose.   I had not tightened it enough and through the constant jostling and vibration of the engine, one of the bolts had come loose and was no where to be seen.   I looked aroundbolts in the tall grass and in places I had already mowed, I couldn’t find it anywhere – it was gone, *poof* vanished.   I searched for another five minutes only to recognize that in my haste to get the job finished, I had lost a crucial component that held everything together.  I had to make a run to the hardware store and purchase a new bolt and nut – only this time I used the appropriate tool (not my fingers) to tighten the bolt into place.   Now, it’s not going anywhere!

Why do you I tell you this tale?
What’s the point?
I think our Spiritual Growth can be a lot like this lawnmower of mine; or rather, how we put this “Christian life” together.  We are often impatient with ourselves and with God.  We want to just get out there and live for him, and so we take shortcuts.  I took a shortcut wayin assembling my spanking new lawnmower – I thought I had tightened everything down good enough only to discover I had misjudged my strength and the terrain around me.  Perhaps in our lives this rings true too.  We get ahead of ourselves.  We cut corners and take shortcuts because we think we already know it all.  We don’t take the time as we should in our Spiritual lives and explore the spiritual disciplines necessary for long-term spiritual growth and success.  Instead we settle for the quick fix.  We go to a service here or there and we think it’s enough – yet the things that hold our “Christian” lives together isn’t enough, and it’s certainly not strong enough either.

Why do we think we know better than God knows us?
Why is it that we become impatient with God when He seems to take a long time?
Do you get impatient with Him?  I am embarrassed to say this, but I do sometimes.
I don’t always take the time I know I need with Him.
Sometimes I do all of the talking and I hardly ever hear what He has to say to me.
And so I get out there in life and I plod ahead full-steam only to realize I’m not as put together as I thought I was.  I find that I, all too easily fall apart – because I didn’t take the time to truly tighten things down in my prayer life, or my faith walk.  Sometimes I’m a mess…and it’s all my fault.

Have you been there?
Are you there right now?
I have to confess I’ve been there more times than I care to admit.
I’ve run so far ahead of God only to fall apart.
It’s in those moments that I realize just how much I need Him.
It’s also very humbling to know that I still have much work to be done within my life.
There are perhaps a few missing nuts and bolts that have to be replaced by God – but I have to be willing to let Him work on me.  It’s painful sometimes to admit this.
It’s embarrassing to recognize that although I’ve been a Christian most of my life – I still need help, I still need work, I still fall apart from time to time.

Have you been running ahead of God in your life?  hs
Perhaps you recognize right now that there are pieces missing in your life.  That somewhere along the way you have taken a shortcut and you really aren’t as “put together” as you want everyone to think you are.   The Holy Spirit still has work to do with us!  He longs for us to expose those missing pieces, those broken pieces, the dirty old life that still remains.  He wants us to surrender it all to Him.   It won’t be easy – but in the long run we will be made whole without any shortcuts or missing pieces.  He has something much better in store for us – if we allow Him complete access to us daily, even moment by moment.

So how about it?
Are you ready to put the lawnmower together the right way this time?

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

Dear Salvationist -Watch Your Mouth!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29

The Holiness Movement is far from dead.
We, as Salvationists, have within our veins more than the figurative colors of red, yellow, blue…we have the image of Christ within our hearts.  Not to say that other Christ-followers do not, or that we are better than anyone else, but this message, this pondering is primarily for Salvationists in our world today.

We face difficulties in our communities and in our culture which makes it hard to be truly set apart for God.  The lure of many things comes knocking at our doors and begs us to participate, to comprise, to ignore this calling.   Is it possible to look so much like the culture that our effectiveness in mission is compromised?  Is there a line that begs and pleads alluringly to be crossed?  What of our attitudes, our hearts, and our speech?  Do these go hand in hand with our lifestyles, with our mission?

There isn’t a time clock that we punch when we accept this holy mission of Christ’s.  We are either all in or not at all.  We don’t wear the uniform to the corps but once it’s off at home we become someone else, with a different set of life rules.    We are beckoned to “go into all the world…”  We are asked to “take up our crosses” and follow Christ.  If we are to imitate Him in every way (Ephesians 5:1), then this includes what we say.

Confession: blah
I can be cynical at times (That’s not a shock to some of you).
I always joke that I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm, but sometimes that sarcasm takes a very harmful turn.  My speech isn’t always as it should be.  Words can become barbs that are razor sharp that can cut to the heart of people faster than any blade could ever penetrate.  I know this of myself.  I make no excuse of this.  Does that mean I wish to continue to the live my life in a verbal rut?  Of course not!

Dear Salvationist
blood and fireDo you have the deep desire to continue to grow in Christ?
Is there, within your heart, the Spirit’s pleading to become more than you are right now?
Are we settling for the verbal ruts, the bad habits, the inexcusable behavior?  Do we make excuses and/or rationalize these away in order to make them more palatable and accepted? I can tell you truthfully that you will never really know peace within your heart as long as you continue to reside where the Holy Spirit does not want you to reside – in regards to ungodly habits and behaviors that are contrary to your covenant or promise to Him.

Like our tithe, like our commitments to God – if we continue to only give Him a portion, we will never be truly satisfied living within His will.  What is God’s will for us?  Read Micah 6:8 again “He has shown you, oh man what is good and what the Lord requires from you.  To live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”   Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Watch Your Mouth!mouth
Be mindful of your mission field.
Be aware of how ungodly speech corrupts your heart and those around you.
What kind of speech am I talking about?  Not just profanity and course language, but (and more importantly) unkind words towards others, Gossip of any kind, malicious-hate fueled speech.  Words that do not build up but instead destroy.  Soldiers of this Army; more importantly Soldiers of God do not act this way…should not act this way!  Watch your mouth…it can build souls and help them become more Christ-like, or it can burn the heart and fuel it into hatred towards God…that is how helpful or harmful your words can be.

Questions to Ponder Today:
How can I change my patterns of speech?
Do I recognize those moments when my words become barbs and are used as weapons?
What is the Holy Spirit instructing me to do within my actions and my use of speech?
What kinds of changes do I need to make right now?
Have I settled for where I am right now or am I willing to grow through the direction of the Holy Spirit?

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

“Let Go and Let God”

What it means: 
We have concerns and worries in life – this is a constant.
Perhaps there are days when we have trouble sleeping at night because our minds are racing with all of the things that still need to be done at work.  We can often face anxiety attacks and troubles with our health if we allow these stresses and worries to consume us.
worry
Jesus talked about worry –
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

This is how we are to let go and let God – We have to be able to release the stress, the strain, the fear and worry.  It is one thing to say “I’m going to give it to God” and a completely different thing to ACTUALLY give it to Him.  We clutch these fears and worry ever so tightly and we rarely relinquish it because we are afraid to admit we don’t have the strength and we need help.

When we finally admit to ourselves that we have been holding back on giving God all of our cares and burdens (1 Peter 5:7)  we can then allow His Holy Presence into these deep recesses of our pride and heart.  It will hurt.  It will pain us to do so, but within this deep communion with Him we will begin to alleviate our worry and fear.  He is more than willing to take from us these burdens and fears.

What It Doesn’t Mean
Do not use this phrase as a crutch.  response
One could say “well, I’ve given it over to God so I do not have any more responsibilities to take care of”  – Nothing could be further from the truth.  We have this wonderful thing called “free will” which allows us to take control of our lives and make decisions.  We have a responsibility within our faith walk.  We either make good decisions or poor decisions.  Saying “Let Go and Let God” shouldn’t be a catch-all phrase for slacking in our relationship to Him.

It also doesn’t mean that life will suddenly become easier and these worries and problems will disappear.  We can relinquished our stranglehold on burdens, but they will still occur.  It seems like a contradiction but in truth we face them with a Higher perspective and within the lenses of His Kingdom.  “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace

Let Go And Let God? 
walkIn the right context – Yes.
But remember He longs to journey beside us.  He longs for our fellowship each day.  Allow Him access to your heart, to your life and His presence will provide the salve that you need in the midst of the storms you are facing right now.

Something more to ponder today!

To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Cheap Grace…

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

readingI believe that one of the major failings of the “Seeker Sensitive” movement is that many times it became a numbers game with very little by way of discipleship after repentance.  Do we do this still in our Corps, dear Army?  We are “over the moon” about seekers coming to the altar, but then we don’t really know what to do with them once they come.   BUT…Is that it?

I don’t wish to point fingers because I realize that I am also pointing at me.
BOOTHI am not always very good at the “what happens next phase”.
In the old Army, there are numerous stories of drunkards becoming gloriously saved.  The amazing thing was that the old Army soldiers and officers knew what to do next.  These drunkards had a perpetual problem of the habitual kind.   Once such story recounts how this drunkard, now saved knew he had to change his old patterns of life, so each day after work this man was met at the doors of his place of employment by fellow members of The Salvation Army.  They literally walked him to and from work each day for the purpose of helping him overcome his addiction at the local bar.  That is truly determination.  That is truly going the extra mile.


How are we going the extra mile?

The Extra Mile Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.
I don’t say this to guilt us into something.
I am quite serious about asking this very question in my own present ministry.
BECAUSE…
-It won’t matter how good you preach on a Sunday…
-It won’t matter how good the band sounds…
-It won’t matter how immaculate your chapel may be…
-It won’t matter how friendly your soldiers are to visitors…
IF 
There isn’t accountability and discipleship taking place throughout the week.
This one stipulation is a major time requirement!
It involves all of us being completely invested in one another’s lives.
We aren’t simply playing church on Sunday and then we have nothing to do with one another throughout the week.  There MUST be something more to our corps than just worship services.

Cheap Grace: Cheap+Grace
-It is apathy and the lack of concern for the “continuance in a state of salvation…” of ourselves and others. (Doctrine #9)
-It is forced fellowship without love.
jail-It is the Monopoly game “get out of jail” card type of repentance where the rationale “I can always come back and ask for forgiveness next Sunday at the altar” is uttered in our hearts but sincerity and true repentance is lacking.
-It is more concern for the preservation of program than the preservation and salvation of souls.

-It is found in our surfaced, shallow calls for forgiveness but never the reconciliation of believers.
-It is acceptance of sin and a lack of conviction to call out sin within the body of Christ.
-It is ignore the Holy Spirit’s promptings to relinquish control over those deeply hidden strongholds of the heart.
accountability
Cheap Grace still exists, but many times we’ve become so blind to it.
It is almost common place.
We cry out sins in the street and lifestyles in our culture and yet we don’t talk about unmarried soldiers living together without the bonds of marriage.  We decry the plight of people “over there” yet we don’t really take the time to look into the eyes of people in our buildings and around our neighborhoods.

We don’t need to look outside our walls to find Cheap Grace, because it still exists in the church…it still exists even in the Army.
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Again, I don’t say this to point fingers that I am not willing to first point at me.
I have blindly accepted cheap grace from time to time.
I am still in need of forgiveness and to give that forgiveness to others.
I have at times ignored the Holy Spirit’s plea in my own life to tear down remaining strongholds of my heart.
I too confess that I have not always discipled as I should.
I have not always taken the time to truly fellowship with other believers that helps to sharpen iron and forge holy communion with one another…

Doctrine #7 says this:
We believe that repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.

Yes, cheap grace still exists.
I am still working to eradicate it from my life, how about you?
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Yesterday’s Blog – Dear Salvation Army, Let’s Talk About Sin and Holiness!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in Pastorsponderings are the writer’s view and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Salvation Army.

Dear Salvation Army – “Leadership, The Art of Delegation”

uniform4
What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

mosesMoses was trying to lead as best he could.
The problem was THIS wasn’t “the best”.
He tried to take on the mantel of leadership all on his own.
I don’t think it was pride, I think it was determination to see this mission through.
Moses was trying, he really was…but he was trying too hard.
You know the phrase “think smarter not harder”?  This is where we find Moses.
He was doing a good thing, but he wasn’t doing the best thing.

How often do we get caught in this trap too?
How often do we take on the mantel of leadership and fail because we face burnout and discouragement?   If I were to venture a guess it is because we try too hard and we reap little by way of reward for our efforts.  Could it be that we have failed to include others within our mission?  Could it be that we have become so consumed by our work that we have made it all about us instead of God?  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, nor was it our intentioned to make it that way, but in our efforts we have lost focus and we are experiencing tunnel-vision.

Dear Salvation Army,
we call it micromanaging…but we just assume it only happens within leadership and with “those officers and people at DHQ or THQ or even IHQ”.   We assume wrong.  We too are often guilty of micromanaging and failing to include others into the mission by delegating responsibilities to others.  When we fail to delegate, we actually rob others of the opportunity to serve and to experience ministry.  Think about it for a second, when we step up on the platform on Sunday and lead everything – who is getting edified by leading? The answer is –just you.  Who could benefit from stepping up to lead?  Who would be available to help?

The Screening Process:
qualityIdentify others.
Pick people who can support you in leadership and who will strengthen your mission.
Don’t pick people to help and then never use them.
Help to equip them to lead.
Be mindful that not everyone will be “on the same page” as you when it comes to our mission.
This is why we need to be careful who we select to help us lead.
On the flipside of the coin, don’t be too stringent on your selection process to the point that no one qualifies.

Replace Yourself:disciple
Remember that the process of discipleship – true, authentic, real-tangible discipleship is all about leading others to replace you.  You cannot carry this mantel of leadership all on your own or indefinitely.  Don’t be so prideful to think that you can “hold on” forever.  This is especially true in The Salvation Army when Officers move around from appointment to appointment.  Are our corps set up to disciple people to pick up the mantel of leadership beyond just the Corps Officer?  Is there an intentional leadership plan to develop people and move them into active roles?  Are we preparing younger generations to model and become the leaders that we so desperately need?

Discipleship isn’t just about delegating roles we’d rather not do.  This is a deeply spiritual thing to do.  What happens when we allow discipleship to occur is that we allow that person access to us –we become vulnerable to that person.  We grant these would be disciples the keys to the door instead of just peering through the window of our lives.   In the process, the mantel of leadership is shared, the burden can be lightened, the joys, victories and sorrows equally experienced.

Dear Salvation Army,
We are sometimes guilty of monopolizing leadership opportunities…
-Sometimes it’s because we feel no one else is capable.
-Sometimes it’s because we’ve always done it THAT way.
-Sometimes it’s a matter of pride and even arrogance.
-Sometimes it’s because the pressure to succeed is so high.
-Sometimes it’s because replicating and delegating seems to takes so much time and effort.

Moses was carrying this mantle, this burden of leadership on his own.
He was worn out, burnt out and spent.  He needed someone like Jethro to remind him that he couldn’t “handle it alone”.

Dear Salvation Army, do you need this reminder today?
Are you burnt out, spent and worn?
Have you shirked discipleship and the gift of delegation because it requires more effort?
I’ve been there too…sometimes I’m still there.
Perhaps this is your wake up call.
Perhaps this is your reminder.

Perhaps today we should take these words to heart and do something about it –
What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, 5 Difficult Questions That Most Christians Will Avoid

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Today I want to open up a pondering like no other.
It’s a pondering that can often be difficult because no one seems to want to talk about it.
Many Christians will skirt around these topics and tend to avoid it at all cost.
This…is just the tip of the iceberg, and perhaps a book ought to be written about it (hmmm perhaps I will).

I’m tired of ducking this conversation, pretending as if everything is fine and we never struggle at all.
I’m tired of pretending to be something we’re not…humanly perfect in every way, shape and form.
If we, as an Army, want to move on, if we want to progress forward – we have to talk about the topics we often shy away from.
Let’s start today:

5 Difficult Questions That Most Christians Will Avoid:  

  1. doubtDoubt (Is God Even Real?)
    What do we call the Apostle Thomas?  That’s right, “Doubting Thomas“.  Why?  Because he dared to expose the fact that he had doubts and he questioned the testimony of others.  He finally gets his wish, Jesus shows him his nail pierced hands, feet and stab-wounded side and Thomas believes.  Is it a sin to doubt?  No.  Is it a sin to question?  Absolutely not.Let’s dispel that myth today about doubting.  We ought to be asking all sorts of questions about God, about the Bible, about life.  It’s not a sin to be inquisitive and demand more proof.  1 Thessalonians 5:21 even says to “test everything and hold onto what is good.”   So let me relieve some guilt in some of you today, it’s okay to have your doubts from time to time.  Pray about those doubts.  Ask God for some further evidence, and/or for Him to reveal  Himself to you.  I do not believe the time for Godly revelation has passed.  If we doubt, then seek out the answers.  Don’t settle for simple answers of merely “having faith”…push back and test these things for yourself.  Faith isn’t about believing what your parents or grandparents believe…it’s not familial in that way, it ought to also be a personal ideology of belief.  If we do not have a foundation there, then we really don’t have a lasting foundation at all.So News Flash, don’t beat yourself up over the fact that you encounter doubts in your life.  Sometimes within those moments of doubting we begin to seek out the answers on a deeper level, and we begin to get serious about establishing a personalized faith that lacks any of the frilly phrases and meaningless jargon we sometimes find in Church.
  2. yep1Sexuality (Pornography and other addictions)
    Sometimes questions about sexuality and specific sexual addictions are swept under the rug in the church and family.  It’s never talked about, and so it becomes this type of “hush, hush” conversation.We are sexual creatures, God has created us this way.  Sex is good. (yes I said it, SEX IS GOOD!)
    It is for creating offspring but it is also for our enjoyment.  The problem, though is that we never talk about pornography and sexual addictions which isn’t only prolific within culture, but it is prolific even in the church.  This is an often unspoken, private struggle, and rightly so, but we ought to recognize that the Church should be a source of honest, candidness when it comes to struggles and temptations of the sexual nature.I do recognize that addictions of any kind ought to be treated by professionals, but that doesn’t negate the responsibility of the Church (and we as an Army) to have honest conversations about its real existence among our ranks.  It does exist.  It is a real struggle for many, and we cannot simply cover it up and pretend it doesn’t effect us.  I believe that if we are honest, this type of temptation is more prolific that we give it credit for.  It doesn’t even have to be pornographic images from adult websites either, it can be things we have seen on television or read in the pages of books.

    Sex is good, but we need to confront the marring of these important displays of affection by the sin nature and the distortion of sexual reality that pornographic addiction provides to our culture and to church.  We cannot simply pretend it doesn’t exist and close our eyes to its existence.

  3. If I work harder, will I become perfect? (Works+Success=Spiritual Crowns) crown
    The Desire To Be Perfect By Outcome based performances
    If I just sing “O Boundless Salvation” well enough…
    If I just wear my uniform better…
    If I do more around the corps and show others how good I can be…
    If I play in the band every Sunday…
    If I
    If I
    If I….
    Don’t get me wrong, these are great things to do within our corps and our ministries, but if we believe that doing all of these things in the right order will win us crowns, and that’s all we’re doing it for, then we’re sorely mistaken.Sometimes I fear that we have this notion that doing STUFF will make us successful in the Kingdom of God. We tend to believe:  All that this Army is really about is adding more to the ranks. -False.
    All that we do is good works so others will pat us on the backs.  -False again.
    We cannot become humanly perfect…that isn’t our goal.
    The Pharisees even wished to impose this on the Jews in their day, and they themselves were merely law enforcers but not law abiders.  Holiness is not the same thing as human perfection.  When God says to us “Be holy as I am holy” what did He mean?  Is holiness about doing STUFF?  No!  We have to first believe and have faith before the outpouring of evidence (Works/Stuff) can be seen.So stop stressing over wearing your uniform better, or performing at a better level…these things might be important at some point, but God first looks at your heart…so how is your heart?
  4. real1Is This Authentic, am I  Realistic?
    (putting on the “Christian coat”)
    Layered on top of all of this is the “Christian Coat”.
    It’s what we do to pretend everything is okay.
    It’s for appearances.  It’s for other people to see.  It’s a facade.  It’s not real.  We sometimes think to ourselves, if my Corps Officer or Divisional Officer or Pastor could see how it really is at home, they would be horrified.
    We have this concept in our minds that we must act a certain way in church in order to “look the part”.  The sad thing is – it’s all fake, and what we’re really doing is holding true fellowship and authenticity at arms length.  We aren’t really allowing others to see how it really is with us.  We wear masks, we pretend everything is normal and holy at home, when it’s anything but normal and holy.Are we embarrassed?
    Are we afraid our fellow Christian brothers and sisters will judge us? -Yes.  I’m no fool in this either, I know how cruel other Christians can be…and it really ought not be that way.  We put up these barriers and wear masks because we’re afraid how we will really be treated if others knew how it really was with us.  So we wear the tunic…we put on the Christian coat…but it’s all surfaced, it’s all phony.Listen, forget what those judgey Christians are going to think.
    Who are you going to honor in your authentic faith – Man or God?
    In the long run who matters most?  It’s a crying shame that we have to protect ourselves from other “Christians”, but maybe if we started to take off these masks and these “Christian coats” true revival and true fellowship will once again take place.  Sometimes the best way to get rid of fake, judgmental “Christians” is to be real and honest and genuine.  So, take off that coat.
  5. What Do I Do When My Family Implodes? fight
    Lastly today, what do I do when my family implodes…believe it or not Christian families struggle just as much with rebellion and issues as non-Christians families.  We sometimes have this false notion that just because our families go to church we will be insulated from some of these issues.  Guess what?  They still exist.  They still can effect our families.  We get so embarrassed about how other Salvationists, how other Christians will react if they only knew we’re barely surviving at home…Can I be honest with you?  Families do implode from time to time.  Families will not always agree from time to time.  It might be a full out battle once in a while (and some of you are saying “once in a while, try all the time!)…I think if we go back to being authentic and real, and vulnerable with one another, we would find that there would be more common ground that we ever realized.  Sure, there will be the occasional sour, judgmental church goer who is more pharisee than Christian, but we would also find other authentic believers who just want someone to listen to their heartaches and the pain they are going through with their kids and/or families.I dare you to take a risk and to share your burdens with other believers…but choose wisely, find believers who will listen, who will love, and who will challenge you for the good.

    These are just five difficult questions to ponder today…many  times we’d like to shy away from such discourse, but I believe it’s vital to ask the question and to find the answers when they can be found.
    Do you have feedback or questions of your own?  We welcome your comments and questions.  Let’s dialogue together a little longer on this subject.

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

    Special thanks to my wife, Shanais Strissel who helps me clarify and inspires me in these ponderings!

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