Dear Salvation Army, Earthquakes, Fires, Disaster…We Are There!

Today I write with encouragement.
Today I take off my critical lenses on this army that I love and I wish to encourage you.
Every one of these entries on pastorsponderings known as “Dear Salvation Army” has a purpose.  All of these postings and articles are intentional and purposeful.  All of them are constructive in nature, geared for the purposes of improving our Army, not tearing it down.  I want us to work together in this.  I want us to march onward (so to speak) and continue to win souls for Christ.  If we lose this momentum we will fail at our mission.  If we lose this momentum we will never achieve our vision.
katmandu
Today: (News From IHQ)
http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/news/inr290415

Nepal.
The Salvation Army is in Nepal.
We are providing aid and much needed funds and supplies.
I know that we care.
I know that lives matter.
I know that it’s not just about winning souls, but taking care of men, women and children.
What happened to one of the poorest, most congested cities in the world is horrible…but I know that we, among others, are there!

When utter disaster faces occurs, people are desperate for help.
We can be that source.
We can be that life line.
We are that life line.

I am not painting a perfect picture of The Salvation Army.
I am not proclaiming us “the best organization” in the world.
I am not saying “look at us, look at us”…BUT I believe God has placed us here to be His hands and feet to the world.  We have access to many places in the world where other organizations can’t go.  Our soldiers are on the ground in some of the most remote places in the world.  This is no accident.  This is no coincidence.  I firmly believe that God has placed us in those places.   How we react and how we offer salve to those hurts matters!

Questions to Ponder:
Has God called you to serve in this Army?
Are you responding to His calling every day?
Will you go if He tells you to go?
What can you do for Him?

May it never be about how flashy or how good we look in a uniform, but may it always be about responding to God’s calling in faithfulness, humility and love.  When everything is stripped away, may our Army of Salvation be genuine…may our Army be true…may our Army be forever compassionate to the hurting and the lost wheresoever they may live in our world.

Will you be there?
Will we provide aid, love, hope, compassion, joy, light?
Something more for our Army to ponder today!

Please keep Nepal in your prayers, and seek out ways that you can support these vital efforts!
To God be the glory!

For more links and ways to help please visit the sites below:
https://secure20.salvationarmy.org/donation.jsp
http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/nepalearthquake;jsessionid=BC2A283C79B7CC9AB73273B5C55AA3AD
https://secure20.salvationarmy.org/donation.jsp?projectId=IHQ-NepalEarthquake

“Finding Refuge”

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  “Selah” -Psalm 46:1-3

How are you today?
Do you feel beat up, crushed, broken and worn out?
How is your spirit?
Are you running on empty today?

There is much in the world that never seems to turn out right.
There is so much pain and suffering in our world!
Sometimes I feel as if this world is hopeless and that evil has won.
Sometimes I turn on the tv and hear news stories or genocides, terror, natural disasters, political tensions and it all just seems to inundate our lives.  Is this all that we are?  With all of our progressive science and medicines and technologies we still see death, famine, disease and death.

Some would say that this is just life, they way it has always been.
I’m not happy with that simplistic answer.   It seems too apathetic to me, too jaded.
Innocent die every day in every corner of the world, and we could compartmentalize this and say, “well at least it’s OVER THERE, and not here…”  Really?  Are we not all human?  Are we not all connected to the very fabric of what makes us live on this earth?  I don’t presume to have the answers to the sickness of our world, but I do know that there is refuge.  I do know that there is hope.  I do know that we can must rise above this existence!

Finding the Strength to overcome? 
It comes from God – “God is our refuge AND strength...” (Psalm 46:1)
Is God something evident in our lives today?
Are we relying on His strength?
Is He accessible to you?
Do you call out to Him in your desire to find refuge from your problems, sickness and fears?

He is our ever-present help in times of trouble! (Psalm 46:1)
When we recognize Him for who He is, we can find the strength and courage to overcome.
When we seek out His refuge in our lives, it makes all the difference in the world.
In fact the writer of this particular Psalm states that even if the earth gives way and everything crumbles before us we don’t have to fear.  Why?  Because God is near.  God will be our strength.  God will be our refuges. The creator of the very earth that is crumbling before our feet is there to offer His help to us.

I don’t know what is going on in your life today, but I do know that there is a mighty God who wants to be included in it!  He wants to be your guide, your refuge, and your strength!  If you’re seeking refuge the deluge of life today, look no further…because God is there!

Prayer:
Dear Lord, please help me in my day to day, moment by moment.  Help me with the problems that I am facing today.  You know my situations and I am seeking refuge in your loving arms!  Grant me peace, allow me to feel your strength and guidance just now.  In your Holy name I pray these things.  -Amen.

Something more to ponder today, He can and will be your refuge in your times of trouble…do you trust Him?
God bless!

Churches – “We’re outsourcing our benevolence funds”…Really?

Is the need that great?
Are churches having trouble “keeping up”?
Why are some churches outsourcing the care of the poor to agencies?
Isn’t there some sort of responsibility that churches ought to have in regards to helping those in need?

It is mind boggling to me when I come across community churches that have outsourced one of its primary functions in as Christians to a created agency to facilitate.   They are happy to funnel their “charity” funds into a created social service office somewhere off of their church buildings.  It almost says to the outside world – we’re interested only in those who can support themselves but we don’t want the riffraff of society  in our beautiful buildings.

The Benefit of the doubt: church1
Granted, there are always new legalities and policies within cities taking place which makes it difficult for some churches to serve the needy.

Secondly, some churches do not have the budgets for staffing full time social service employees to facilitate this need.

Thirdly, storage and distribution space.

changeBut…
(and it’s a big one) does this mean ONLY parishioners/members of that church can have access to services?
The danger in this kind of model of social distribution of services (and it really does exist) is that support for individuals in need is managed in a discriminatory fashion.  If you do not belong to the “club” you cannot receive help…”but here are a list of food pantries in the area that we can direct you to.”  That’s all well and good but don’t you think the message it is sending is “you don’t belong here, please go somewhere else…Members only!”?

Outsourcing:
The only kind of outsourcing Jesus did was delegating responsibilities to his disciples.
It was for their education as disciples.
It was to help them and to grow as future leaders.
Jesus didn’t send people on their way to the temple administrators.
He didn’t tell some “I can’t heal you because you aren’t a member”

Why do some churches take this path?
Does it deviate from the true purpose of “Church”?
Does it seem to send a message of “We care, but not in our backyard“?

I ponder these things today with open questions because honestly I don’t have the answers.
I just see that certain churches have become pretentious in appearances and treat benevolence like a blight or an annoyance that they deal with once or twice a year with a collection.

Is this not important?
Are we not to care for the orphans, widows and poor?
Has it become beneath the modern American church?
If that person isn’t a member is there any help that we can give them?

Something more to ponder today.

“NOT WORTHLESS!!” 3 Ways to Discovering Your Self-Worth (Pt. 1)

Self-worth:  Many people struggle with this issue in life.
Some people decide that they truly are worthless and in that moment they become full of self-loathing.
At the very least it is counterproductive, at its worst it is a pathway to self-destruction.

Questions:
How do we live this life and feel complete…satisfied?
How can we retain a measure of self-worth when we encounter discouragement?
Are we worth anything?
Do I matter?

These are very common questions that are thrown around.
Sometimes circumstances in life lead people to question their identities and self-worth.
Others grew up being told they were accidents, freaks, or simply that they were “good for nothing”.
NEWS FLASH: These are lies still being told today to people all around the world.

You may feel as if you are all alone in this.
You may feel as though you are truly worthless and if you were to simply “disappear” no one would care.
Please know that this IS A LIE that many tell themselves.

I do not want to delve too deeply into the realms of depression today, but I do want to say that these depths can be extremely dark and lonely and that it is perfectly normal to seek out professional help in the form of counseling!

let me further illustrate the lies that we buy into sometimes in our lives before I include just 3 ways to discovering self-worth again:

3 Lies About Self -Worth

workLie #1: Your self-worth is all about where you work and what you “DO”.
Perhaps if you had a better paying job you could afford nicer things and a nice home…
people always seem to associate self-worth exclusively with where they work and how much money they make.  Perhaps having more money might solve some issues in life, but when people place all of their identities into what they do they can discover that at the end of the day they still feel empty and unfulfilled.

NEWS FLASH: What you “DO” shouldn’t be who you are!
What I mean by that is this:  The Apostle Paul earned a living as a tent maker while serving as a missionary.  Tent maker wasn’t who he was, it was a means of supporting his purpose and calling in life.  Jobs may come and go, and often times we place so much power upon what we do that in the process we lose the “who we are”.  Our identity in self-worth is so much more than our place of employment.  Beyond this, if you are a person of faith and a Christ-follower, our self-worth is inexplicably tied to WHOSE we are and from that the calling He has placed upon our lives…but I will get to that later.

Lie #2: Your self-worth is all about how others see you – the “people-pleaser” people
We ought to make a distinction here, there is a big difference between accountability with peers and mentors and the need to constantly seek the approval of others.  Our self-worth should not be inexplicably linked to pleasing people.  When we connect our happiness with making everyone around us happy, we crash and burn.  Being a perpetual people pleaser might provide us some satisfaction and happiness at the onset, but eventually the shine wears off and we will find ourselves constantly running for that applause and approval while at the same time never reaching any personal goals or achievements.

This is where self-care comes in.  You cannot help others and be a source to others if you have nothing left in the “tank“.  There must be times when you step away and seek out selfishly (in a good way) those things that will restore your energies and confidence in yourself.  Jesus got away from His disciples from time to time.  He prayed to the Father.  I’m sure He reflected too.  I’m sure He also replenished His “tank” while in the process.  Don’t tie your self-worth exclusively up in the applause and approval of others.   Living as a people pleaser is an empty life and will only serve to wear you out both mentally and physically.   This “People Pleaser” mentality is a lie that will leave you feeling worthless and spent in an endless pursuit of utter insanity.

fakeLie #3: Your self-worth is all about being happy all of the time!
This last lie (and I know there are many more) attempts to force us to entertain the erroneous notion that all is not well if we are not happy all of the time.  If everything is not candy canes and lollipops something must be wrong.  In the Church this lie is sometimes perpetuated by people who think all Christians ought to be smiling and cheerful all of the time.  We even sing songs about being happy all the time.  The truth is we cannot be perpetually happy every moment of every day…and THAT’S OKAY!   Self-worth shouldn’t be about “am I happy all the time?”  Happiness is much different that being content.  Contentment doesn’t mean that you are constantly cheery and everyone thinks you shine like the sun.  Contentment means there is a peace within us.  It means that we have found a “sweet spot” in life and we live within that sweet spot.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be bad days.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t experience sadness either.  Being content is vital – being happy all of the time is not…it’s a lie.

Understandably we ought not look like the character Eeyore eithereeyoresad, where we’re just mopey and down every moment and we tend to bring other people down…But self worth is more than just experience happiness and smiling so much our jaws ache.

So-WhatSo where does our self-worth come from?
How can we recognize the lies being told about self-worth while striving for a genuine self-fulfilled life?
I am happy you asked.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s edition as we jump into the 3 ways that we discover this important characteristic in all of us.

Until then ponder these words:
It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.
-Abraham Lincoln.
-See you tomorrow!

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