The Death of a Fallow Prayer Life…

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:14

I was cleaning our kitchen yesterday.
With four children this is almost an everyday occurrence. If not, dishes tend to pile up and creates a chaotic leaning tower of Pisa sort of mess. Anyway, I digress…As I was washing off dishes and putting them into our dishwasher, I looked up at the windowsill and noticed our non-thriving plants. They were all dead. We might make excuses about these dead plants. Perhaps we might say that they are simply dormant in the winter. Or maybe they just needed to be pruned back for the season. A few more excuses come to mind, but in reality these plants are simply dead. They were once promising green, thriving plants in pots and sun lamps. Many on the cusp of producing some sort of fruit or vegetable. Yet, due to our travel schedule and our lack of green thumbs, they have shriveled up and were husks of their former living selves.

I am reminded that this is a living parable (pun intended)…for myself. I feel as if the Lord teaches us through the world around us – like my plant pots holding dead things in them. Caskets containing death instead of nourished soil of growth. I am drawn to this life lesson. It is something simplistic and yet stark in its reminder to me. For I am sometimes this casket containing death, when I should be a vessel containing life.

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In my prayer life…
My un-uttered words.

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my parched lips and forgotten promises to God.
My prayer life can look like husks of its former self.
Dried up.
Dehydrated out of lack of spiritual water and nourishment.
Neglected and empty.

How many times have I forgotten to go back to the Living Water?

Image result for dying of thirst

How many times have I gotten so busy in the concerns, fears, transitions and schedules of life that I have simply left my conversations to God to go fallow life I harvested fields? And before I know it, the once rich, dark vibrant soil is now cracked and as dry as bones in a desert. From this neglect enters apathy, harsh words spoken out of frustration and shallow roots.

Have you stood on this fallow ground?
Is this you? I know that I have found my shamed identity here.
what are the conversations that you have neglected with God? He desires to nourish your life again.
He longs to shine on the soul-soil and help you grow once more.

For me?
I am convicted here.
I find myself licking my parched, cracked lips in longing for that Living Water once more. I feel the guilt and shame of leaving Him out of my life…and I must seek Him out again. I must return to His living water and replenish my mind, body, soul.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, create in me a clean heart once more.
Renew in my a right spirit again.
Re-hydrate my broken, crumble soil.
I long to find rest and rejuvenation in you anew.
Re-ignite your passion and compassion in me.
Take away the casket of death and flood my heart with life and love.
Here I am, spark in me the joy of your salvation once again.
Lord, bring your Living Waters once more.

Something more to ponder today.
Be Blessed and thrive not just survive!

The Death Of The Sacred

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

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

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

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How about you?

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

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

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Solitude and Practicing Presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something more to ponder today.


A Pastoral Pondering on Life, Death and Hope…

End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.” —J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

The telephone rang in my office. It was a darkening, rainy afternoon. The billowing clouds hung ominously outside, and in my heart there was also a tempest that was threatening to spill out into my life. It had been a hard couple of years in the ministry, and I had been contemplating my resignation as a pastor. I was frustrated, hurt, and very ready to pack it all in and call it quits. It was with a heavy heart that I picked up that ringing telephone and answered.

Little did I know that the prayer that I had been repeating in my mind and on my lips was about to be answered. – A local pastor was calling to donate some food to our corps because we had a large soup kitchen and we could always use the extra meals. I politely told the pastor that I would drive over to his church right away and collect the food. Isn’t it interesting how God knows just what we need even before we recognize it?

I made my way to his church and pulled into the driveway. The church was an older gray stone building with a traditional cross at the top, and the customary blue and red stained glass window that faced the busy street. I parked at the adjacent gymnasium structure and knocked on the front door. The pastor ambled to the door and upon seeing the uniform, welcomed me in. He led me to the kitchen where the food was all nicely wrapped and ready…but something truly remarkable happened. I had come for food to feed others, but the Lord had other ideas in mind. I needed nourishment of the heart – for I was worn, weary and at the end of my rope.

I am not sure if you have ever experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit, but I am certain that the Lord had given me a divine appointment that day in order to help heal my wounded heart. The pastor began to talk to me about his ministry, and gave me a brief tour of the building. He described the basketball program and the youth ministry. We chatted for a few more minutes and then it all spilled out…It felt like I was in a safe place, far away from judgment and ridicule…and so I shared with him my hurt. It was like unloading a burden I had been carrying around for far too long. I told him about my heartache I had experienced in the ministry, and the wounds that had been inflicted while on the pastoral battlefield. He understood. He didn’t say, “well you just need to try harder“, or “perhaps you just aren’t walking with the Lord enough“; or even “maybe you’re just not cut out for ministry.

No, rather, he just listened.

He let me expose the festering wound of my heart that refused to heal. I had not been able to articulate it, let alone face it before. But here in a gym kitchen, I felt led to bear the wound and let the infection be seen.

Finally after I had finished talking, the pastor told me about his own hurt. How years ago he had moved to this town. He had left another ministry that had been difficult and it too had wounded him. Leaning on a stainless steel island in a small kitchen, he then prayed for me, and the power of the Holy Spirit began working in my heart. I can’t tell you that I was miraculously healed in a single instant, but the pain, bitterness and hurt started to be addressed by the Lord. I was a broken vessel in need of repair, and the hands of God were more than willing to remold me again. Dare I say that the Pastor was only being faithful to the Lord, while the Lord applied the much needed salve to a wounded life. Isn’t it funny how God has a tendency to do that – use the faithful at the most unlikely of places, and just the right moment?!

After the Pastor prayed with me, he asked me if it would be alright if he contacted a couple of other pastors that he knew, and if we could all meet over breakfast sometime soon. I accepted the invitation and promptly left with the food in my hands. Again, I had come to receive food for people in need, when I was also in need myself – in need of spiritual nourishment and hope. I walked away from that encounter a little lighter.
I told my wife about my time with Pastor Steve, and explained that I felt the Lord had placed him in my path.

A little while later I received a phone call from Pastor Steve, and true to his word, he was inviting me to a breakfast with his group of pastors. I had been in other pastor groups before, and sometimes it felt like it was a forced fellowship. I went to the first breakfast with that thought in mind, but I was extremely surprised to find a group of guys who loved being with each other. The laughed together over coffee and toast. I felt as if I was being welcomed into a fellowship I didn’t deserve…and yet here they were warming my heart.

Over the course of the next few months I met with this pastor group. We met every couple of weeks, and there wasn’t any agenda except to encourage one another, to pray for one another and share the in the journey. I came to pick up food only to be fed…

Pastor Steve helped to pick me up, a wounded pastor, on the way while traveling on the same journey…and I am forever grateful for that divine appointment. It was just before Thanksgiving last year that Pastor Steve went in for a routine gall bladder surgery only to discover that it wasn’t gall bladder at all, but rather terminal cancer.
I recall the sheer shock of that horrific news. Yet, through it all Pastor Steve remained a faithful servant of God.

Just today, mere weeks before Thanksgiving – almost one year to the day – Pastor Steve went to be with the Lord. I mourn the loss of such a man of God. This world is better because he walked it. My life is better because he journeyed for a time along with me. He shared in my hurt, and helped to heal the deep wounds of my heart. I know that I will always be thankful for his ministry in my life…even though it was for but the briefest of times. Just like markers in life – where we remember the turning points and milestones – Pastor Steve stands there on one of those points in mine.

I came to pick up food for others only to be fed…and that was a divine appointment designed by the Lord and enacted upon by a faithful servant…thank you Steve! And now while I continue to travel this path, may I too faithful recognize those divine appointments that must enter and help those who walk behind me.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis.

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…
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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.

Dear Salvation Army: Communion, It’s Not What You Think It Is…

Dear fellow Ponderers…
I have been dragging my feet in writing this for some time.
Not because I didn’t want to write this edition to Pastorsponderings, but rather because I want to be careful in how I broach this conversation.  I do not wish to offend and upset you – the reader.   Some will no doubt become offended anyway, and I have come to terms with the fact that I will not always make everyone happy – that’s a fool’s errand anyway.

Perhaps in light of this Holy Week that we are all entering into we might also reflect on the Passover feast that Jesus participated in with His disciples…what we now call “The Last Supper”.

Thus, I write this with the utmost sensitivity and respect.

I have been contemplating the topic of Communion once again
(See previous conversations on this:
https://pastorsponderings.org/2014/07/23/dear-salvation-army-communion-survey-results/

Is Communion Considered Taboo in our Army? 
Within The Salvation Army, even the conversation of the Lord’s Table/Supper/Communion has become a taboo topic.  It is almost as if we are forbidden to talk about it, let alone partake in this ceremony.  Some have postulated that despite not participating in this ceremony, we have created our own sacred ceremonies in place of it, thus making the argument that we are non-sacramental in practice null and void.

I fear that failure to discuss such topics within our Army can lead to a polarization of our theological perspective, and variants of our doctrine might splinter and break off (as in some locations, it already has).

Some within our Army would treat the topic of communion with deep disdain to the point that the practice of it is almost treated as an organizational sin.  It is my estimation that too much focus on such a topic in this light is a waste of time and not conducive to unity within our Army.  There should be more open dialogue on this topic as I believe there should be on the topic of baptism.   -Someone will inevitably lambaste me for that, but that would just prove my point that we treat such innocent conversations on the topic as complete taboo and even sinful to even mention, which is ludicrous.
Davinci

Is Communion Misunderstood In The Universal Church? 
In Luke 22 it is recorded the celebration of Passover that Jesus and His disciples were partaking of.  This has now been dubbed “the Last Supper”, where Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to fulfill the final act of Salvation in His false trial, torture, and death by crucifixion.  Thus, Jesus reclines with His disciples and takes in these final private moments with those He is closest with:

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:14-19)

Could it be that over the centuries the emphasis (or fixation) upon the bread and wine have been misplaced?  Didn’t Jesus preach in parable and often teach as Rabbis of His day taught?  With questions and metaphor?  When Jesus spoke of doing “this” in remembrance of me, is it not possible that it wasn’t just the bread and wine He was talking about, but rather the entire dinner together, the fellowship and unity of disciples?  Is it possible that instead of coming together just to contemplate the bread and the wine, the whole ceremony of remembrance is just as vital?   Coupled with the remembrance, the unifying love of Christ that binds it all together is the common denominator.  So much so, that when the disciples gathered in another upper room together in perfect unity, they encountered the second blessing an the day of Pentecost?  (Acts 2:1-31)
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Perhaps, it is in the very practice of gathering in unity and prayer that we find the proper practice of Communion to be viable and appropriate – even commanded by Christ Himself.  After all, didn’t Jesus also pray for unity of the believers when we said, “ that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
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Dear Salvation Army,
Let me ask you a question:  When are our Soldiers unified with the love of Christ?
When is it that we remember Jesus as our Savior and source of resurrection power?
Would you suggest that it is when we gather in times of confession, of worship, of fellowship?  When does the mission of Christ within our Army become the most galvanized and evident in the body of believers?
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Is there a time for ceremony and formal recognition?  Of course!
What do those intentionally consecrated moments look like?
Could it be that Communion has been vilified in our Army?  (Perhaps that is too strong a word)…
Is it possible that what Communion truly is – is the coming together of His disciples in fellowship and unity instead of mere ceremony?  Can we do this over a meal together?
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Perhaps instead on the over emphasis of the elements we have lost sight of the One who broke the bread and poured the wine?

What do YOU think? 
Post your comments below and let’s continue this pondering together.

*Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are of the author’s views and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Salvation Army.  Reader desecration is advised. *

 

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!

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Things About The High Council…

Greetings fellow Salvationists and friends!
I wanted to delve into the topic of the High Council in this post, and perhaps share in your thoughts, opinions and hopes for what is to come.  It has been announced that in May of this year (2018), the High Council will convene to prayerfully elect new General of The Salvation Army.   I have seen some interesting polls being passed around on social media as to who the new General might be, and perhaps who some hope it will be.  What we know is that Territorial leaders from around the world have been summoned and will travel to London, they will meet at the Renaissance Hotel near Heathrow Airport.  This is the second time that this location has been used for the convening of the High Council.  general
3 Observations About The Salvation Army High Council & Election of our new General…

1.  Fastest Growing Regions…ten forty
It would be quite remarkable if the new General were to come from a place in the world where the Army is growing in leaps and bounds.  Countries in Africa and South America, and Asia spring to mind.  Isn’t it interesting that the Army is growing remarkably well in many places where financial resources are thin or nonexistent?  There is something to be learned in this, and perhaps we shall explore that topic another day.  But, the High Council were to elect our new General from one of these regions, it would certainly be remarkable and offer a true representation of a growing army.

2.  The Majority – A Safe Election…
westA vast majority of our Generals have been Westerners.  I am not saying this as an incendiary comment, it is simply fact.   The top percentage of our international leaders are those who hale from the Americas, Australia and the United Kingdom, save for a few.  This is not to say that there are not leaders who come from other regions in the world, but by and large most are Westerners.  This is where a majority of the Army’s funds come from, where world services support is raised.   I do not presume to know much of the politics in our army, but I do know that prosperous territories generally have a larger, albeit unspoken, sway to how the army operates.  The power of the resource can often dictate the direction in which those resources are utilized in the world for the purpose of the army.  Thus, if this was to be a “safe” election at High Council, the election choice could follow suit of so many other past Generals in terms of nationality and region of origin.

3.  The Holy Spirit…high council2
I have been told by multiple sources that these places of election have also been very holy places of worship first and foremost.  It is not that these spaces were already sacred, but rather the leaders who come to High Council do so in prayerful reverence and at the moving of the Holy Spirit.  If we are truly a holiness movement, then it would make sense that our seats of highest authority be seats of holiness and humility.  Is it always so?  Of course not, but may we as an army place this event into our prayers and ask the Holy Spirit to lead those who will come to High Council.  Secondly, may we fervently pray for our next General!  When we allow the Holy Spirit to move within our army, all other agendas and ambitions will fade and His direction will provide us the appropriate leader for such a time as this.

It’s Your Turn…
What are your thoughts on High Council?
What do you expect to see coming from the election of our new General?
Does this have any impact on your life, or the life of your home corps?
Is there a need for a more aggressive mission and vision in our army today?  If so, what should this more aggressive mission and vision be?   Tell us what YOU think in your comments below either via this blog page or on this social media thread.

Additional News Links on this topic:
IHQ Announcement

https://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/highcouncil

Wikipedia on High Council
https://salvationist.ca/articles/plans-under-way-for-2018-high-council/

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

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, If Baptism isn’t Necessary, are Uniforms?

“So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…” -Acts 10:48a

Recently I was asked a question by one of our volunteers who had been busily answering phones but found a lull in the rush of the day.  The question?  “Why doesn’t The Salvation Army baptize?”  It’s a good question, one that has been asked many times before.  I answered him, in a semi-rehearsed conversation.  I told him about our perspective on holiness and on holy living.  That these outward ceremonies only represent that which the Holy Spirit has already on on the inward parts of our heart and lives.  I went on to explain that baptism isn’t necessary to salvation, but rather a public witness to that life changing event.  He countered that it says one must be baptized even in the Great Commission:  “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

I challenged  him with a notion of my own:  but Peter said, “ and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[a] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”  (1 Peter 3:21)

If water baptism is only a symbol of the salvation that now saves you, doesn’t that mean that it’s all about the Holy Spirit and not the water?  Doesn’t that mean that, as I have already mentioned it’s not the water that makes the difference, but rather the work of Him who now resides within us at the moment of initial sanctification when we said “yes” to Christ’s dominion and Lordship of our lives?  -When the baptism of the Holy Spirit first encompassed our lives?

We continued to converse about this topic of baptism and its necessity, until this very astute volunteer asked a question I had not thought about.  He said; “In order to be a member of some churches, you have to become baptized (at least in his church it was emphasized I later found out).  So how does one become a member in The Salvation Army?”  I told him about our Soldiership classes and then how new soldiers are given uniforms as another sign of their membership into The Salvation Army, which is also an evidence of a life changing event as a soldier pledges to: “HAVING accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and desiring to fulfil my membership of His Church on earth as a soldier of The Salvation Army, I now by God’s grace enter into a sacred covenant…THEREFORE

I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible.

I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life.

I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought. word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral.

I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others: my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow Salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community.

I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life.

I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God.

I will abstain from alcoholic drink. tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs. gambling, pornography, the occult, and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.

I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and the disadvantaged.

I will be actively involved, as l am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.

I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of Salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.

I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God’s help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army.”

I showed him the general idea of a Soldiership enrollment and pledge/covenant.  
He looked at me with a little bit of surprise.
Then his next words really made me think, “But this is similar to what I experienced in my baptism.”
He went online and showed me some of the wording that was used on his day of baptism.  The website blink and whisked us to his church’s website and there on the screen was the basic ceremony of baptism:  

Since you have responded by God’s grace
to the call of the gospel to believe and be baptized,
we ask you, before God and his people,
to profess your faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you turn to Jesus Christ?
Yes!
Do you intend to be Christ’s faithful disciple,
trusting his promises,
obeying his word,
honoring his church,
and showing his love,
as long as you live?
Yes!

(*Note:  Both of these public statements of faith are good and helpful for the body, I am not criticizing their usefulness)  

After showing me this he asked me the all important question, “If The Salvation Army believes that baptism is unnecessary, then isn’t the Uniform that you wear unnecessary too?

You know in some ways he is right.
The Uniform isn’t of course necessary for Salvation just as water baptism doesn’t save people…but could it become that to us in the Army?
Of course we know that the entirety of this transforming grace is done through the Holy Spirit alone.  Each are symbols.   Each are ways in which we commemorate and identify ourselves as members of that particular Ecclesia.   But, perhaps it begs the question of us today, even to quantify and formulate our own response of the necessity of uniform in The Salvation Army.  Do you have an answer or do you merely follow, perhaps even blindly without fully recognizing the symbolism and meaning?

Please do not get me wrong, I am not advocating that we chuck our uniforms away and lose that part of our identity, but what is the reason that we still wear the uniform?  Do we wear it for public recognition?  Do we wear it to look good?  Do we wear it because it’s what we’ve always done?  Do we wear it to fit in?  -Any of these answers is NOT good enough.  We must formulate a personal response and reason.  Yes, we are a part of this international movement.  Yes, we are identifying ourselves as members of The Salvation Army, but is that a sufficient of an answer?

Let me ask this question and perhaps some will think me a little crazy in asking, has the use if Uniforms and enrollment of soldiers simply taken the place of baptism and even communion as the commonality and qualifications of membership?  Have we just exchanged one ceremony for another?  Could this eventually lose it’s symbolism and meaning to future generations…or has this already happened and we aren’t prepared to admit it?

Two key observations before I close this open ended pondering today (and please comment and share your answers and questions with us):

1) William and Catherine Booth decided to exclude the use of baptism and communion because these had been abused and lost its meaning and had even become means for salvation and even power of the church.  Could this be happening to the Uniforms and the use of such a wardrobe?

2) The Uniform was originally adopted so that poor and rich alike could fit into “church” or the movement of the Army.  But as the price of uniforms become more and more expense even with allowances and percentages offered to members, is it necessary?  It used to solidify and unify the early Army…but was it meant to last forever?  Also has it now become what it should never have become – something that divides new comers and adherents from the “true” soldiers?  Instead, of unifying is it undoing what the Booths originally set out to do with the lower East End of London?

Things To Ponder (Tell us what you think?):
Have we not taught the proper use of uniform?
Have we lost the symbolism?
Has the Uniform become a divider instead of something that unifies?  Are we overthinking this?
Are we in need of changing the uniforms?
What of Baptism?  Is it really similar to the ceremony of soldiership & renewal ceremonies?  And have we just exchanged one ceremony for another?

Note: My purpose for such a pondering today is not to discourage you dear Salvation Army, but rather to better identify and have an answer for such questions as I have had this week…now it’s your turn.  What do you think?  

Something more for the army to ponder today.

*Disclaimer, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are solely the thoughts and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.* 

 

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