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?

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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!

“Re-filling The Well.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 13 Revisited

O Lord, do not continue
this silent treatment for one more moment
for my heart can’t take it any longer.
My soul is a dried up husk of what it
used to be.
I cannot sleep, and when I do
my rest is filled with troubled dreams.

I have been looking,
ever searching for you…
why are you hiding?

I can not take
this hurt of abandonment
any more,
O Lord hear my
gasping,
lung-rattling cries.
I cannot shed anymore
tears, for the well
has dried up.

And my thoughts,
they are running circles
around my broken heart…

I keep second-guessing you,
I keep pleading for this horror to end
How long, O Lord, will you let it fester
and consume me?
I don’t think I can
make it much longer.

But even after all of this…

even if You never answer my cry…

even if I am left alone
on this hill to die on…

I will trust.

I will put all that I have
of my wilting
strength into
your Eternal hands.

But Lord,
wake me up,
Help me see even the
remotest chance
of victory.

Help me see the Light
at the end
of all of this…
even if it comes
in the last moments
in the final dying gasp
of these feeble lungs.

My enemies are already starting to jeer
And they are celebrating my demise
…and yours as well.
They cannot wait for me to fall flat
on my face
in disgrace
and embarrassment.

But even if that happens…
even if I walk this
cold, dark alley alone,
I will trust
in your unfailing,
immeasurable
eternal love…

I know that You will come
You have always
kept your promises
to me.

You have always
been good to me…
even in this dark place…
O Lord, please come.

(As I read this Psalm of David, I could feel the anticipation and fear, perhaps even a little bit of frustration. We have all been to this place, perhaps the circumstances are different than that of David’s, but within these phrases there flows an emotion that we can all relate to. It is within this vein, that I have placed my needle and poked us all…perhaps in the bleeding we might see not only the very real presence of pain and fear, but more importantly – God’s holy and eternal presence…He will never leave us or forsake us.).

-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.

10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
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If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
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The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
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Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

The Dreams of Our Childhood…

What is it that drives you, motivates you, wakes you up in the morning?
Fear?
Coffee?
Money?
Children?
Your Spouse?

What are your passions and goals in life?
To be successful?
To find happiness?
To be content?
To travel the world?
To make the world a better place?

What if within that pursuit you discover that happiness you’ve been searching for has been with you the whole time?

What if you got it all wrong, and had to start over?
Would you?
Could you?
Or would you simply settle?

I fear many people have given up on dreaming.
I fear many have simply settled for what they have, and bought the lie that the dream was too large, or too unrealistic.

What would it take for us to begin dreaming again?
I mean dreaming reality big…like when we were kids.
When there was no such thing as impossible.
When, if we dreamed it, it could truly happen.
No walls of “can’t” exist.
No prison bars of “You just don’t have the time or education” to hold you.

Could we begin to believe again?
Would we even know how?

Yes, Adulting is hard…but as we grow older the imagination of our youth becomes even harder to hold onto.

We need to redefine the impossible.
We must recapture the dream.
We should never just settle…

-Something more to ponder today.

Faith Lessons From The Ocean – Lesson #1 “The Trench Of Fear”

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” -Psalm 56:3

They say that you should never underestimate the power of the ocean.
It can be a dangerous place, and many a person has been lost beneath its currents and waves.

With that thought in mind, for the next few installments of Pastorsponderings.org, I want to explore what I want to call ‘Faith Lessons From The Ocean’, and how it might apply to our daily living:

Lesson #1 ‘The Trench of Fear’
I recall, on numerous occasions being a hapless victim of its tides.
I have never drowned, mind you, but I have faced some scary moments while within the ocean’s grasp. One such day occurred when I was a child. I remember it vividly. I was wading out into the surf, feeling the salty sting on my eyes and lips. I had not gone out very far when all of a sudden I found myself in deeper waters where I could not reach the bottom. The normal ocean floor shelf was further out, but I had stepped into a sand pit that was much deeper than the surrounding area. I momentarily panicked, I recall that my head went under the ebbing waves, and I choked on some of its spray.

For a brief moment, dread filled me and I was frozen in fear. This probably only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity had gone. I was a helpless victim and no matter how hard I tried, I was caught in the rip current of this small ocean trench.

When I came to my senses and pushed my panic down, I remembered the pull and push of the ebb and flow of the ocean waves and so on the next in coming wave, I stretched out my arms and paddled like I have never paddled before. I rode the wave out of my trench of fear…and I was finally free!

Our faith journey can be a lot like that trench of fear.
We will be cruising right along, enjoying life and riding the waves of success, then suddenly we find ourselves below the waves…and panic sets in.
In a sudden crisis, we might quickly forget God’s promises to us.
We might forget that He promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
We might forget that God always keeps His promises to us.

So we might be traveling in life, and all of a suddenly we come up against an obstacle that we feel has no bottom and we are drowning beneath its weight. Have you been there? Have you felt the powerful pull from the riptide? Have you lost your firm footing and have been forced to tread water? Perhaps you are at the point of sheer panic, because we do not know what will happen next when another large wave of life spills over you.
-Breathe.
You aren’t alone.
Don’t Panic.
This trench may seem to be your doom, but you will survive…you were made for more than this, and God is with you…trust Him!

Fear can be debilitating.
It can hold us captive and in chains.
Fear will lie to you, and reveal to you all of your weaknesses and insecurities. It will make you think that you can’t go on and that you are all alone in your struggles.
Fear is also tool of the Father of lies…and he loves it when we are held paralyzed in its awful grasp.

Fear is a Liar Music Video

Have you been to this place?
It’s a cold, desolate wasteland where hopelessness lives and is neighbor to unfulfilled dreams.

Don’t live there.
Don’t waste your time.
The trench of fear holds many souls captive…don’t let it hold you!

Where are the trenches located in your life?
What causes you dread and holds you captive?
Perhaps it is time to cry out to the Father.
He hears us, and He will not let your foot slip, even if you find yourself treading water from time to time amidst waves that seem determined to do you in. You will survive, and He will provide you the path by which you can thrive.

“When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down.” -Psalm 94:19

“Lost and Found”

“…I will be found by you, declares the Lord…” Jeremiah 29:14

Have you ever misplaced your keys…your wallet…you cell phone?
I once lost my cell phone, and I began to tear the house a part, only to discover it was still in my pocket.  (No joke, you just can’t make this stuff up!)

When we lose something there is this sense of dread, we become frantic, we tear couch cushions off of sofas, pull every drawer open…all the while double backing and retracing our previous steps in order to find that missing item.   Finally when we relocate that missing thing (usually vital item – like the car keys), we exhale with a sense of relief.
Have you been there?  I am sure you can relate to this!

It reminds me of the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10).
A woman loses this valuable coin and turns her entire house upside down in order to find it, and when she does she calls all of her neighbors to come and celebrate with her.
And then Jesus drops the mic with the next sentence:  “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (v.10)

The angels (and God himself) celebrates with what was lost is now found again…

Here are some observations about this topic: 

-Don’t ever think that you’re insignificant to God and that He doesn’t care about you.
-God searches for you when you have lost your way!
-You are precious to Him (more than you can imagine).

“…I will be found by you, declares the Lord…” Jeremiah 29:14
Context: 

God’s people had become corrupt, lost, broken and exiled because of their unfaithfulness.  Despite all of that God was still searching for them; still hoping that they would return to Him.  All hope was NOT lost!

God said to that generation, and I believe He still says this to our generation today:
I will be found by you.

If you’re feeling lost today, please know that the maker of the Universe is searching for you.  He knows you, loves you, desires for you to know Him.  It’s not to late, never too late to return to Him.

Let me ask you two final questions:
What are you searching for in life?
Is there peace and joy in your heart?

God wants to be found by you…
May we never stop running after Him.
May we seek after God…
May we never stop learning all that we can about this amazing God of ours.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Reasons Why Failure IS An Option…

First let me insist that failing to plan is a plan to fail…I am sure you have heard that before.  But it’s true.  Everyone of us has potential to risk big for the Kingdom of God, but if we fail to plan for that kingdom building exercise, we plan to fail.
Failure
Dear Salvation Army, I want to share with you a simple but profound thought.  Are you ready for it?  Okay, here goes…It’s okay to fail!

There I’ve said it.
Without failing from time to time, we will never know how to properly prepare and improve our ministries.  I fear that we have become so insulated in the development of ‘the Army empire’ that we set ourselves up for this erroneous notion that to fail would mean that we have failed the kingdom, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Do you remember the parable Jesus told about the talents? 
Do you recall which servant was eventually chastised and kicked out?
-It was the one who buried their talent.
-It was the one who feared the master’s reproach if that talent was not returned.
-It was the one who was afraid to fail to the point of immobility.

Dear Salvation Army…
Are there places in our movement that we have become so afraid to fail that we are essentially immobile in our mission?
Is there a difference between that servant and us (if we are immobile and paralyzed with fear of failing?)

Let’s explore why failing is healthy, and failure should be an option.

But first…
Let me assure you that our main goal has never changed.
We are not changing missions in exchanges for failure.
I said failure should be an option…but never the desired outcome.

3 Reasons Why Failure IS An Option: 

1) Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained…failure3
The early Army was a mobile, flexible army.
If the mission was not working in one neighborhood, it was closed and reopened somewhere else.  The key in this is the word “ventured”…it means to go, or dare to do something.

My fear is that we are doing the same thing over and over again and it’s just not working.   I don’t mean the truth of the gospel, I mean the method of delivery.  Our approach to the same task of reaching people in HIS name.  If we are bogged down by the delivery system so much and we stop paying attention to its effectiveness, then we have lost perspective and we are no longer innovators and venturers.

How far are we sticking our necks out there?
Do we fear failure or do we take risks?
Are we more afraid of receiving reproach from our leaders than we are from the Holy Spirit as He leads us?

2) Faith Requires Leaving The Known…
Remember Abram?
God called him and Sarai out of the known and into the unknown.
He told Abram that he would be the father of many, many people.
That first step must have been hard.
That second, third, fourth, fifth…equally as hard…but they left the known.
God led them.
God.

Let me ask you a question:  Do you still believe that God leads His people?
Are we a part of that “His people”?
And if so, are we willing to step out of the known and into what is unknown?
failure4
We do not believe in a stagnant God.
We know Him to be moving and active in our world…so too ought our mission be mobile and ever moving.  If we are more afraid of failing than we are of letting God lead us into the unknown then we have our priorities backwards and a spiritual alignment must take place before we actually fail.

3) Rejection WILL Happen…failure5
Jesus was not always successful in reaching the lost, poor, hurting.
There were some who never accepted Him.
There were still others who completely rejected Him.
When we pick up our crosses and follow Him, we have to recognize that with that laborious effort of cross-carrying there will be rejection – we will face scorn, hurt, loss, pain and people will bounce us from their lives.

The Great Commission is risky business!
We will not only risk a lot, but we will face rejection frequently.
(I’m not really selling this very well am I?)
I’m just being honest – the decision to Follow Jesus and to serve Him means we walk His path and place others before us, and love the unlovable and yes, turn the other cheek when people reject Him through our faith in action.

Questions for you to Ponder: 
Is there room for failure in my ministry right now, or do I feel that I can’t afford to fail?
Am I afraid of what my leaders will think if I am not successful through this current method of ministry? (Perhaps if so, that method of delivery needs to change in order to include risk)
Am I too hard on myself when I mess up and don’t live up to the expectations I have set for my own ministry goals?  (What is the Lord saying to you about this?)
How much latitude have I given myself to fall flat on my face?
What areas of my ministry needs more risk taking?
What is stopping me from taking those risks?
Who are the people that I am afraid of being rejected by?
(List them and pray for those specific people and situations)

Dear Soldiers of this Army,
It’s okay to fail from time to time.
This holistic ministry of holiness has to allow for missteps, correction and realignment.
Don’t be afraid to risk, especially if those risks have been prodded and placed on your heart by the Holy Spirit…but really investigate, dig deep and ensure that He is leading you and it is not from your own desire or ambition.
success failure 3d concept
Failure IS an Option…but it’s never our desired destination, after all, we know in Whom our Victory is assured.  To God be the glory!

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.

 

Dear Salvation Army Officer’s Kids: 5 Survival Tips For Officer Kids Who Are Moving…

Hey fellow ponderers, please allow me this moment to be a little selfish…actually I want to specifically think of my children, and other officer kids out there on the cusp of moving (perhaps once again).   I know that this blog post will not speak to everyone, and not everyone will relate, but please recognize that I have a heart for the kids that these moves effect…because I was once one of them.  I know the hurt of moving, and hopefully, in some small way, I desire to help other Officer kids out there going through another move…

Dear Officer’s Kids: 
I remember vividly the day my parents broke the news to my sister and me that we were being fare-welled.   It struck my heart, my friends, my school, my corps family…everything was about to be uprooted, dislodged and, in my adolescent mind, ruined.  Life as I had known it sucked!  That’s what I thought.  That’s how I felt…and, in some small way, I was angry about it.

My family had spent eight years of our life overseas as missionaries to three separate locations in Southern Africa.  Then when we moved back to America, I had this thought that perhaps we would stay in our “American” appointment for a whole lot longer…but that was not to be, and at that time, I was very sad about the prospects of moving once again.

So we packed up our things, and began the long goodbye that is the farewell process in The Salvation Army.

Let’s face it, moving is never easy.  Your parents can get stressed out, frazzled and downright difficult to live with during this time; But how we view these kinds of transitions can make all the difference in how we face the next place we live.

Here are 5 Survival Tips For Officers Kids Who Are Moving:
(Perhaps, if you can practice these tips, it will be less survival and more thriving in a new opportunity!)

  1. Talk To Your Parents/Parents Talk To Your Child! 
    Mother and Daughter TalkingAsk as many questions as you can about where your parents are being sent.  Start to be inquisitive, and ask about your new school, corps, summer camp?  When we actually talk about the new appointment, or place you’re moving to, it becomes less of an unknown, scary thing, and more of an absolute, tangible ‘new home’.   Keep in mind that talking won’t always be easy.  There will be times when your parents will be stressed or upset too about the move, but keep in mind that families need to stick together and talk about the transition.  Parents: this is SO vital!  As soon as you can, tell your children.  Get them ready for the move.  Also please remember that how you view this move will positively or negatively impact how your child will view this move.  Discuss the pros and cons of moving…don’t neglect that both adults and children will feel a sense of loss, especially if the the current appointment is a place that you’ve been in for a long time!  Talk about what you’re going to miss and also talk about what you’re not going to miss – be honest and sensitive to what your child/children are saying.
  2. View Moving As An Adventure & Use What’s Familiar!
    Young Man Traveler with backpack relaxing outdoorMy parents helped my sister and me in this important topic by showing us the adventure that awaited us.  Now I know that there are some who are reading this and may be thinking to yourself, ‘It’s not always so joyful when we move’, and you’re right; but the more we can begin to view moving as an adventure, the more we can begin (and help our children begin) to adjust to a semi-transitory lifestyle.I recall knowing people who have lived in one place for their entire life, and I can’t even begin to understand that, but I don’t envy it either.  As I look back at the ‘Army’ life that I have lived, both growing up and now as an adult, I see all of the life lessons that I’ve had the opportunity to learn.  I also have experienced a broader world view than if my family had just stayed in one location for my whole life.  This adventure has taken me to live in different cultural places, I have learned different local customs of many regions, and because of it I feel like my life is more rounded.O the places you will go…and the places you will see as an Officer’s Kid!

    To Parents and Kids:  Start talking about the adventure…then live the adventure!  It can be easy to always look back and miss where you once lived, but if you look back the whole time, you will miss the adventure that you’re about to step through in the next appointment.  Find the fun in life.  View the new place that you’re about to live with a sense of fun and adventure.  Coupled with the new adventure, set up your rooms and homes with the familiar so that where ever you go, Home looks and feels the same – this is the ‘safe ground’, the sanctuary, the ‘fortress of solitude’ and the family first environment!  Bring your familiar blankets, pillows, posters, decorations…etc.

  3. Research, Explore & Google Places To See In Your New Home Townexplore
    We all have smart phones, computers and tablets, so use them to not only check out your new home, but all of the fun places around your new home.  Check out apps like Google, TripAdvisor, Zomato Yelp…etc to find new and exciting places to eat, explore and visit when you arrive at your new appointment.  Make plans to check out those places – and then do it!It can be fun to use your google maps to literally view the street your house is on and then go for an interactive ‘drive’ down the street through that app.  As you do this, you will start to envision yourself there.  It will never take the place of where you are living right now, or the places you’ve been, but it will certainly add to your life’s adventure!  Think of it as the next chapter, but you will never, ever replace the last chapter…it just becomes a wonderful part of your life’s book!
  4. Find Activities To Get Involved In Right Away In Your New School!
    activitiesWhen you move to your new home, (and here’s the BIG, frightening step of faith you should take:)  find activities that you are interested at your new school and/or community that you can become involved in.  Don’t wait for a year to jump into it, do it right away…trust me on this!I know some of you might be introverts at heart and you’ll want to stick close to home and ‘play it safe’, but try to push yourself to get out get involved!

    When I was a kid, I loved sports, and so when we moved I joined the soccer team and the track team.  By the time school actually started, I already knew people at my new school because they were friends from soccer.  I made it a point to get involved.  It wasn’t easy…and there were days that my stomach just churned with anxiety about being the ‘new guy’, but I pushed myself, and my parents gently pushed me too.

    That’s the key too parents:  your kids are stronger that we sometimes think they are.  They will thrive if we get them out there and involved in activities.  I’m not saying don’t allow them their down time at home, but don’t let them settle into unhealthy – isolating cocoons either!   Help them find activities that they are interested in within your new appointment and plug them into those activities.  When we can help our children find these healthy sources, they will develop friendships and become invested in this new adventure!

  5. Stay Positivepositive
    I’m not going to lie to you.  There will be days when you will sorely miss the place that you just came from.  There will be days that you will be tempted to withdraw from your new place and quit…don’t.  Families need to stick together during this ‘mourning’ phase of moving.  Emphasize the positives…look for the bright side and the opportunities.They say that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to things – so attitude is VERY important in these transitions!If your new school stinks, then perhaps you can find one friend to enjoy the stink with at that school.

    If your corps is not the best place to be, then perhaps you can find a small corner of it to make it your own despite the circumstances.

    Officers Kids and Parents:  How we act towards one another matters.  Be an encourager to each other.  Don’t go negative and only focus on what you hate about this new place.  Sure, talk about those things, but don’t stay there – find the silver lining and when you do, you will find hope and joy despite the ups and downs of these transitory circumstances.

Kids:  You got this!
You are resilient, smart, amazing people!  Help your parents, and remember we aren’t alone in this!  Officers kids are band of brothers and sisters and we can do anything we set our minds to!  Let’s stick together!

Parents:  Keep speaking truth, love and joy into your kids.  Be patient with them…and at times go easy on them!  Encourage them to be active, and show them what it means to live this Officer life…live the adventure with them!

Something more for This Army world to ponder!
May God richly bless on your move!

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