Day 7: Which God Do You Serve?

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”  James 2:5

When asked this question, most of us would say “I serve God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son…this is the God I serve!”  But I would like to challenge you on this today, and in this challenge I hope we might recognize a very real and present danger in our lives right now.  What is that danger you ask?  Money – riches, fame, glorification of lifestyles that are not acceptable to God.
look2
This pursuit of recognition on the world’s stage is wrought with sacrifices that will hollow us out and leave us mere shells of who God knows us to be.  It is interesting that longing for wealth and recognition isn’t just the pursuit of money, but it is the pursuit of acceptance and accolades from the world itself.  The trap can be – “What does the world tell me I should be” or, “How can I impress the world with my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook accounts?”   We have a lot of people who have become internet famous in our world today, it seems easy to do…and so an entire generation is growing up longing to have that fame and fortune as well.

In Jesus’ day, Pharisees were sort of Ancient world “internet famous” – they performed good deeds in the street so that people might see how good they were.  People looked up to them, and they lived an elevated lifestyle amongst the common folk.  Jesus said of their public activities: “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, asthe hypocrites do in the synagogues and on thestreets, to be praised by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2)
Listen to Me Sign Person Tries to Get Attention in Crowd
Serving those around us so that others might see our good deeds in not serving God…it is idol worship and we have built self-serving gods in our name.  Be aware of this trap.  Recognize it for what it is, and reject the notion that in order to be a Christian we have to publicly show our goodness and prove our worth.  This isn’t true worship of God, this is showmanship and does not bring honor to God.  Instead, serve God even if no one sees you.  Love others even if it is not reciprocated.  Allow those silent, unobserved spaces to become your sanctuary to the Most High…may it be only for Him!  When we shift our focus from self to God, we realign what worship is, and in Whom we worship.

Prayer:
Lord forgive me when I have not worshiped you, but elevated my  status and ego.
I recognize that I must decrease and you must increase in my life.  Help me to serve you regardless if I ever receive credit for it on this earth.  May the words of my mouth and the actions of my heart be acceptable to You, Oh Lord my strength and my Redeemer.  -Amen.
img_2411

Day 2 – Residing In The Goodness…

Focus Verse: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28 (NIV)
The grace of God resides within us.  His presence provides what we need in the good times as well as the bad.  

Our focus verse for today has less to do with some sort of magic “goodness”and more to do with where we choose to place ourselves daily.  What I mean by that is this: are we firmly planted in our faith in the almighty?  Or, like shifting sands, do you waver and even falter when stressful/difficult things occur?  

The emphasis within this verse is “…of those who love Him…” Whatever you may face today, wherever your path might take you, how deep does your love for God go?  To what depths will you journey…will you go even beyond your comfort zone to serve our Father in heaven?  

The goodness God offers might not manifest itself in earthly riches and worldly fame, but rather in our daily provisions and spiritual blessings.  He gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want.  He loves us and know exactly the means by which to provide and to protect us.  The very real question is: do we trust Him?  Might I confess that I still struggle with this trust.  I still attempt to “handle” it all on my own…and I usually fail gloriously when I do.  

Might I suggest that we tackle this trust issue moment by moment instead of with vast brush strokes and promises?!  …and in so doing, may we plant ourselves firmly in the goodness of God, and remain there!

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to reside within your goodness.  Show me how that can take place within my doubting moments. Help me to surrender to you even when the going gets tough.  I long to be yours and yours alone!  Thank you for this glorious day that you have given me and the blessings that I often take for granted.  Reside with me throughout my day and all that might frustrate my plans.  May Your will be done in my life today.

-Amen. 

Imprisoned By Fear?

There is all sorts of types of fear.
Fear that propels you into action.
Fear that keeps those you love safe.
Fear that weighs the outcomes of decisions yet to be made.
Irrational Fear
Phobias…

When we say the word “fear” sometimes it evokes different interpretations and understandings of this little four letter word.  Some see it as a challenge, while others dread.

Fear, when used  right can be helpful, but when it is not it can imprison, immobilize and prevent all forms of progress in life.

Our Faith Walk:
The Apostle Paul, after taking those first step in following Christ, post his roadside theophany,  could have fear what others thought of him.  He could have been held captive by fear following the first time he was thrown in prison or flogged for his outspoken faith…but he didn’t.  He rejoiced while in prison.  He and Silas sang songs well into the night.  Although Paul was imprisoned, he certainly wasn’t imprisoned by fear.

How about us?
How is our faith walk?
Do we find ourselves shouting “Amen” during Sunday church service, meanwhile on Monday at work we whisper to a quivering fearful heart?  Does fear hold us back?  Are we afraid of how others might perceive us if we professed our faith out loud?  What about our attitudes and intentions toward others?  Isn’t it harder to remove self from situations than it is to be selfish?  So it is with overcoming fear and replacing it with faith.  It is not that the fear is removed completely, no, instead we learn to use that fear to our advantage.  We recognize when that fear is rising in us and we must consciously decide to step out in faith…or leap.  Harnessing fear places us “out on that limb”.  We say, yes, I am afraid, but I will trust in God to lead me and direct me.  I do not know where this path will lead me, but I will follow the Lord…I will put my trust in Him.

…“I will proclaim Your name to My brothers; I will sing Your praises in the congregation.”13And again: “I will put My trust in Him. Hebrews 2:12-13

Make this your prayer today:
Lord, where you lead me I will follow.
I am afraid, I admit that…but I will not run from
your calling on my life.
I want to live for you in every moment of today.
Lord, take this fear of mine and use it
motivate me into action.
Let me love those around me.
I will become less and you, dear Lord become more.
I struggle with trusting you with all there is of me,
but I acknowledge this and I ask you to remind me of your presence with me
today.
Grant me your boldness, your courage, and your love
as I walk this path that I cannot see.
Lead me Lord.
-Amen.

No Longer Slaves

Dear Salvation Army, Are You Missing Out?

It is that time of year again – Thanksgiving meals to host, Red Kettles to send out, toys to collect and pick up, volunteers to appreciate and direct…the list goes on. toys.jpg

If you go to The Salvation Army and/or are employed  by The Salvation Army, (Officer/Employee/otherwise) you know just how hectic this time of year can become.   There are moments when there isn’t enough hours in the day to get what needs to be done completed.   We can become harried, worn out and sometimes short-fused.

kettleSometimes we tend to dread this season of Christmas because we are so very busy.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful thing that we do for people in our communities, but it does come at a cost.  We can become jaded by what we do so much so that we lose sight of why we do it in the first place.  Sometimes we lose out on precious opportunities because our noses are firmly planted to “the grind”.

Don’t Miss Out!
Here are a few things that I have learned thus far whilst being an Officer, and before that, an Officer’s kid at this time of year:

1.  Look up from time to time. eyes.jpg
Don’t become so focused on stats and figures and logistics that people get lost in the shuffle.  Look up, look into people’s eyes, take a precious moment (not the porcelain figurine) away from the busyness and look up at those around you.

2.  Take a minute break – unplug for a short time.
timeout.jpgIt sounds preposterous to “take a break” during our busiest season, but step outside.  Go get a cup of coffee.  Do something for ten or fifteen minutes (even an hour if you can afford to) that gets you away from the noise and responsibilities.  This is sometimes called “self-care”.  It’s maintenance for the mind, soul, body.  Breathe.

3.  Listen.  ears.jpg
Again, it sounds funny to say this when we have some many people wanting a moment of our time, but learn to listen…to the right things at the right moment.  The Lord DOES place people on our path that edify and encourage us (sometimes those we least suspect), and He also puts certain people on our path that we can help share His hope with.   Put down the planner, put down the pen, take your eyes off of the Christmas data entry on the computer…and just listen.

We have a distinct opportunity to reach new believers during this time of year.  Sure, there are those few who are “Seasonal Christians” who only come at Christmas and Easter, but there are also some deeply impactful moments that one can have with people who are desperately searching for something meaningful in their lives.  We know that Christ is the answer – and we (if we are listening) can spur on those deeply spiritual moments.

4.  Intentional Worship
Not only should we anticipate the business of this season, we should also anticipate God’s Holy Presences in our worship.  Worship isn’t exclusively what we do on Sunday mornings either.  Worship can take place while we drive bell ringers out to their sites – and the conversations that we engage in while in that van.  That van can become a sacred space, as sacred as any penitent form or altar.
worship.jpg
Let’s face it, we’re all familiar with certain “catch-phrases” or cliches  associated with the Christmas season.  There’s one particular cliche’ spoken often around this time of year, and it goes like this “Wise men still seek Him” – I’m not one to use these tired phrases, but we DO need to be intentional in our worship of the Most High.  There needs to be personal preparation before we come before Him.  We ought to check our motives, attitudes, grudges, conflicts at the door and navigate the deep, personal waters of our hearts.  We must set aside these sacred spaces within our hearts in order to ensure we aren’t people with divided hearts.  We do not want to miss experiencing His presence because we are too busy or too consumed with STUFF.

Questions to Ponder:
ponderAre You Missing Out?
Are you so busy that you actually dread Christmas?
Are Sunday services and other worship opportunities merely a afterthought?
How can you make this Christmas season count?
-There’s nothing specifically special about one specific day, but more people are open to Christ during this time of year.

What would happen if we listened more intently?

Don’t miss out on experiencing His Holy Presence or the opportunity to make a lasting impact on someone’s life because you find yourself too busy at this time of year.  Be intentional, be aware and be His Ambassador of grace and peace.

Something more to ponder today!
God Bless You!

 

 

Disclaimer: 
The views and opinions expressed on Pastorsponderings.org do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Salvation Army and are the sole property of Scott Strissel.  Thanks for reading!  

“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, Leading Through Grace Or Fear?

Recently I wrote on the topic of being a leader or a manager
Click link here to read: Are You A Leader Or A Manager?

Today I wanted to expound on this topic. 
Just because we are modeled after the military doesn’t mean we are now equipped to bark orders.
If we look hard at our mission and the purpose for which we were created, we would recognize that our mission is about grace and love to those we can reach.  I wonder sometimes if we forget our purpose from time to time.  Sometimes when power and authority is given to a person it can taint that person, make them “too big for their britches” (as my Grandmother used to say).  Power and authority, if not handled correctly, can cause more harm than good.  An added measure of humility is needed, as well as the constant reminder that the Holy Spirit is really who is in charge…and drives us to do the mighty work that we do.

Let me dissect this issue this morning, and I’m not saying this happens all the time, but it does happen from time to time in our Army and we need to be aware of it!

Leading through Fear:  fear
When a leader (Local Officer, Corps Officer, Divisional Officer, Territorial Officer) leads through fear and intimidation a few things take place – sure, the “fear of God” is put into those they “Command”, but so does resentment, reluctance in making any further decisions, and innovative/creative thinking takes a back seat.  This goes back to being a manger instead of a leader.  A manager has the tendency to micromanage everything and does not allow those who work under them to claim part of the ownership within the mission.  When the micromanaging takes place the workers or those subordinate to the manager feel as if the manager is lurking over their shoulder all the time and will pull back from being proactive for fear of not adhering to the manager’s vision.  You see when leading through fear, generally it’s not about a shared vision, it is about perceived forced vision that only one can manage and the rest must fall in line.  This is not a consultative democracy by any means, rather this model represents a fearful authoritative model of management.

Leading through fear might garner results, but it also suffocates ingenuity, creative planning and incorporating others into the vision.  As an Army, many of us have witnessed this type of leadership whether at the corps level, at the divisional level or beyond.  Sure, perceived strength in that “leader” might occur, but a stronger model brings others along to accomplish the mission not by wrangling, forcing and demanding.

graceLeading through Grace:
I recall one such leader in my life.
He was giving me feedback on my performance, and in the midst of his honest and candid critique he actually wept when praying for my wife and me.  It was touching, it was genuine…it wasn’t business as usual, this leader actually cared for us and wanted us to become the best leaders we could possibly be.   Was this leader a “pushover”?  No way!  He could be firm when he needed to be, but many times his leadership exuded a godly example of grace and love for those he led.

Leading through grace doesn’t mean subordinates can do whatever they want and there is little to no accountability, rather this type of leadership (not management) provides kind and loving direction so that not only the mission can be completed but a shared vision can be cultivated.

It is weakness not strength that dictates to managers that they must exert their authority and “put the fear of God” into a subordinate.
It is weakness not strength that commands respect, when respect is earned by working alongside one another.
It is weakness not strength that requires telling people what to do over consulting them and finding the solution to issues together in order to accomplish the same holy mission.

Let me say something controversial here for a moment –
The Salvation Army needs fewer managers who lead through fear and intimidation and more leaders who will lead by example and lead through grace!  Perhaps that isn’t so controversial at all…perhaps this is already happening.  I believe that the time of fear mongering “leadership” within our Army is at an end.  I believe that if we are to better our Army, more grace must be exercised.  More love exuded.  More honesty and ownership of the mission.  We cannot rely on some of our failed models of leadership to usher us into the present and future.

Some might think this is completely and totally directed and executive leadership, but I beg to differ.  This is directed at anyone and everyone who might pick up a mantle of leadership from the local officer level all the way up to the office of General.  How we choose to lead makes a HUGE difference!
leadership
So what will it be?
Leadership built on Fear or Leadership built on Grace?
Grace still has accountability.
Grace still has difficult conversations.
Grace still commands respect (more so than fear ever did).

I hope we all aspire to be the kinds of leaders that exude grace and love…let’s put down the iron fist.
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑