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?
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?

(*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.* 


The Scariest Journey…(Podcast & Pondering)

Listen to the Podcast here (or read transcript below):

Dear fellow Ponderers, I apologize for my absence as of late, you see we had a double whammy in our home.  First our four wonderful children were off of school for Spring Break.  Secondly, all four of our wonderful children caught the flu during this week of Spring Break…so it’s been an interesting week to say the least.

I wanted to talk to you today about the scariest journey anyone will ever take in their life.
No, I’m not talking about a visit to a war torn country or a treacherous climb on Mount Everest.  No, this journey is something more common place, and yet so frightening that few people ever truly embark on it.  coin

There is the story of a rich young ruler in the bible and he goes to see Jesus.  The rich man is pretty confident that he is doing life the right way, and so he asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus lists the ten commandments to this rich man, and the man insists that he has indeed lived a disciplined life and has kept those commands since he was a little boy.  Then Jesus says the scariest thing to him , despite keeping all of these laws and doing all the right things, “You still lack one thing…”  In the rich man’s case it was selling all of his possessions, giving it to the poor and following Jesus…

There is another story in the bible, this time from the old testament.  A story about a guy named Abram.  His story is in the first book of the bible, and in chapter twelve God calls Abram to participate in the scariest journey of his life.  God says to him, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) 
God called Abram from what was known into what was unknown.
God called this man from the familiar into the unfamiliar.

The scariest journey we will ever go on doesn’t happen in the deepest darkest jungles in some remote country in the world, instead it happens when we say yes to God’s calling into the unfamiliar.  The rich man was called out into it and he said “no” because he didn’t want to leave the comforts of a lavished lifestyle and what was familiar.  Abram left and God promised that he would be the father of mighty nation.  Both men were rich, yet one man said yes, while the other walked away.

For you and for me, God calls to us to leave the familiar and follow Him into the unknown.  This is a scary calling.  This calling could take us away from the things we feel comfortable with.  God’s calling moves us into action.  Our response determines this path.  And you see, the Holy Spirit wants to work in our lives.  He wants to move us from where we are right now into a deeper relationship with Him.  It’s like going on a journey and coming to a train station right in the middle of the journey and saying to God, I’m just going to stop right here…it’s kind of nice right here…I think I’ll just stay here.  Yet God knows that there is something better in store for us if we just continue on this journey even though we might not know how long we have travel and what we might see along the way…but He knows that this little comfortable stations along the way isn’t the destination…He’s got something better in mind for us.  In a way, we often tell God that we know better and that where we are right now is good enough, when in fact God has something even better for us in mind if we only trust Him to lead us out into the unfamiliar.

Abram trust and God led Him…Abram wasn’t always perfect and he did make mistakes along the way, but we left the familiar and embraced the scariest journey because of his faith in God.
So let me ask you today, where are you on this journey? path
Are you where God has called you to be, or are you at some sort of midway station along the journey enjoying the comfort and familiarity?  If we can admit that the Holy Spirit has more and expects more from us, then perhaps it’s time to move into the unknown.  Perhaps God is calling us into a deeper faith that requires us to take a step out of our comfort zones…and perhaps one step turns into twenty and twenty turns into a hundred and then we just keep traveling out into the unknown.

I love that song Oceans…admittedly it has been played out a bit on Christian radio, but in the bridge or refrain part of the song it it says, “Spirit lead me where my faith is without borders, let me walk upon the waters where ever you make call me…”  This is a very scary place to be – to leave the familiar and embrace the unfamiliar.  To stop living the status quo and to start living an all-in kind of life for the Lord regardless of what other people think or regardless of where this takes you.  This could take you away from your present church or ministry.  This calling could take you away from your families and your current job…this calling could make you reevaluate your entire life.  That’s why this is the scariest journey to ever embark on…but I believe this will be the most rewarding one of our lives.  So let me ask you, are you prepared to move if God asks you to?  Are you prepared to take that leap into the unknown if that’s what it takes?  Are you okay with stepping out into the unknown because you trust in a God who is known?  waters

It starts with saying “yes” to God regardless of where that yes will take you.
That my dear fellow Ponderers is the scariest journey for us to take…
God bless you today!

Music used – Oceans (Hillsong). 

Day 38 – “The Landmarks of Everest”

…So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.  Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.”  Joshua 4:8-9

I recently read with great interest an article about Mount Everest.  In this fascinating

Bodies still remain on the mountain and are used as landmarks.

article, the writer described how Mount Everest is a grave to over 200 climbers who didn’t make it down from the mountain.  Some froze to death, others fell, while still others simply ran out of oxygen.  The thing about these large mountainous grave sites – once on the mountain it is near impossible to recover the bodies, and so to this day, these bodies remain frozen in time and visible to those who climb.  These fallen climbers not only commemorate the dangers of climbing this daunting mountain, but they now also serve as landmarks to other climbers.  Out of these tragic deaths has come life and in some way, these once living landmarks are making the climb easier for others to carefully mark out their steps as the ascend the mountain.

This brought to mind the story of Joshua in the bible. (Read Joshua 4:8-9)  He had become the new leader of the people of Israel.  He had replaced Moses and was attempting to finally see the promised land.  As they prepare to cross the Jordan and into this new land, Joshua instructs the twelve tribes to place a stone into the river.  Imagine these large rocks (12 in all)  being placed one on top of another.  This was to be a landmark.  A reminder of God’s promise-fulfilled .  This was to help generations after this one to see and to remember God’s faithfulness to those who love and serve Him.  This would be a memorial place that  grandparents could point to and tell their grandchildren about how God had provided when their generation was homeless and wandering.

stonesThere are many other places in scripture where people have left their landmarks so that others who came after them would know of this great God.  Some landmarks commemorated great grief and loss, while others commemorated great victory and joy.  All of these served to provide a means of safer passage to the next generation.  This makes me wonder what sort of landmarks we are constructing in our own lives.  How are we paving the way for our children and our grandchildren?  What sort of legacy are we leaving behind for others to follow?  Will they commemorate an honorable holy disciple of Christ through the testimony of our lives, or will they use our story us as a warning?  I pray that we desire to pave the way through a life of godly living and in so doing, leave legacy that others wish to follow as they ascend this path of holiness.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help me to mark out my days with care and prayer.  Light this path before me.  May my testimony be more than words, but fully realized in my love for you and those around me.  Lead me today on this path of righteousness.  -Amen.
*Notes Source:*

Dear Salvation Army, Is Policy Killing Our Mission?

“There’s no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.”
― E.B. White.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Today I would like us to ponder policy and if we have become so policy heavy that as a movement, are we at risk of killing our forward momentum and even our mission?

Like any organization, church, or movement, as they grow they develop more investments to protect and preserve…is that where we as The Salvation Army are today?  Could it be possible that we are more concerned with the progress that we have already made as an Army?  Are we afraid to push ever forward because of past investments, government monies and grants that have tied our hands and now prevent us from serving God to the fullest?   Are we to the point that we must protect dying programs because they have always existed instead of risking it all and doing what the Lord is calling us to do?

And what of policies, regulations?  Have we internally bound our hands so tightly within rules and regulations that we can no longer effectively be “Saved to Serve”?  Now, before you write me a nasty note (again) and chastise me for this question, please know that I am in no way seeking anarchy within our ranks.  I know we have rules  and orders that we must abide by, but sometimes I wonder if we have made our organization SO complicated with regulations and rules that we have become like the ancient Greek Senate that could never make a rapid decision as their kingdom fell around them by outside forces.

I don’t believe we are there yet, but could this path that we are on currently be killing our movement?  Has policy become the passion killer in our Army…and just like a stringent weed-killer, has it killed the fruit-boothbearing plants along with the weeds?

There was a time that William Booth would pull up its corps/outposts because it wasn’t working in that closedcommunity…today it would take over a year (at least) to close a dying or dead corps and plant a new one elsewhere.  I understand that there are many variables to consider, I know we have so many more hoops to jump through, and the right forms must be submitted, and the right studies have to be done…and the list goes on…and it is far too complicated, perhaps more complicated than it ever should’ve been.  I wonder if this is why we aren’t growing anymore?  Because our hands are bound by massive amounts of red tape and far too many hands have to touch the paperwork as it passes over many desks at various levels of responsibility.   Is it no wonder that some just given up?  Is it no wonder that some grow frustrated at the snail’s pace?  Granted we ought never make rash, uninformed decisions, but are there times when the amount of red tape becomes utterly ridiculous?

newCould this be why younger evangelistic churches seem to be having more success in growing their church plants – because they have far fewer restraints and hoops to jump through?  The building process doesn’t take 3-5 years, instead they work a church plant that tithes and contributes to the building campaign?  I understand we are not just a church (we are so much more – we are a movement)…but are we a stalled movement in this regard?  Or is this the proverbial story of the tortoise and the hare, where wisdom and time win out?

Policy Keepers & Creative Challengers
balanceSometimes I feel that we as an Army have become so policy heavy that we strangle creativity and the potential for real, sustainable growth.  The problem is like this scale, too heavy a balance of policy keepers will lead to a diminished level of creative challengers.   On the other side of the scale, too many creative challengers will lead to a diminished level of policy keepers and lack of order and policy.
We need both!!  Without a healthy level (and balance) of both types of people in our Army, we face a lopsided army and a potentially failed mission.

I hope I am not painting a dismal picture within this pondering today, because that is never my intent.  I am simply curious if we will reach a turning point where we think smarter instead of working harder within our structure of this movement.  This Army of Salvation should be a powerful tool for Christ in this world, but I fear there is a tipping point of balance happening.  The kind of imbalance that places restraints we that prevent us from reaching our full potential.  Have we presently become an army too afraid of upsetting our investments and our previous accomplishments?   There must come a point in which we admire the past and our rich heritage, but also press forward as a movement and focus on generations still in need of help, hope and salvation!  A healthy balance of both the policy keepers and the creative challengers must be present.

refocusPerhaps we have taken our focus off of the mission and exchanged it for regulations and rules.
Perhaps, in some places, we have exchanged mission for overly creative risks that have created a polarizing mission and have completely missed the mark.
Could it be that we are not fully relaying on the Holy Spirit for our guidance?
Perhaps we must reevaluate why we do what we do within our mission and purpose.
I hope this makes sense to you.   I hope this finds its mark.

If we are not serving suffering humanity in the name of Christ through the things we do then we must shift our priorities and refocus it.  Perhaps it’s time to uncomplicate things.complicate

Tell us what YOU think?  Do you identify as  a Policy Keeper or a Creative Challenger…or Both?
How can we uncomplicate things?  In your opinion, does policy sometimes overrule and supersede  mission, or do you find that the opposite true?    Let us know what you think, we value your comments!

Something more for our Army to ponder today.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of The Salvation Army’s but the writer’s own opinions…reader discretion is advised.  

3 Vitals About This Life…

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  James 4:14

Life is so fragile and brief.
As we get older it seems that things just seem to speed up like a run away train on a track that isn’t finished yet.  We keep plodding along thinking that the line is still hundreds of miles away, yet it’s only a couple of miles down along the bend.

Sometimes life isn’t what we thought it would be…yet we had clung to the notion that it would be awesomely amazing when we grew up…only to discover that life is what you make of it, it takes a lot of work and hard decisions.  Life can be pleasantly insulated by friends, family, children – and this makes the journey, because that’s what life truly is, a journey – so much more enjoyable and treasured.

Here’s what I know about this life so far…I’ve been pondering this for some time now…and i know that there are far more wiser people out there than me, but let me try to articulate what I know about life so far, perhaps this will resonate or at least make sense to you.

3 Vitals About This Life…

1.  We don’t get to choose how many days of life we have…
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” -Psalm 90:12
This life IS temporal, and we don’t live forever in this body.  Does the spirit live forever, that’s what we have been told and what I believe, but this shell will one day give out and stop working…and so will yours.  Sounds kinda depressing doesn’t it?  I know…but in the grand scheme of things, there is a far better – longer lasting existence waiting for us.  A life where there will no longer be this barrier between us and the Almighty.  A place where we will no longer suffer from disease and the aches and pains of life.  I can’t even begin to imagine that yet, but we must, at some point, come to terms with the limited nature of this life.  We don’t get to choose the length of our lives.  God does give and take away, He is sovereign over our very breath, and I have to believe without a shadow of a doubt that we deeply matter to Him.

2.  This life is like a mist, really it’s not that long – make the most of it. 
As James puts it, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  (James 4:14)  Have you ever seen that fog in the early morning?  It’s so mysterious and wispy, just hanging there.  It’s dangerous to drive into, but you know that in a little while, as soon as the Sun starts to shine on it, that fog will dissipate and vanish.  It’s a great analogy of life isn’t it?  This vital understanding of how brief our life really is puts it into perspective.  Don’t waste your life.  Make memories.  Don’t get so caught up in things that don’t really matter much – even (or especially) work can become one of those things.  When it is all said and done, will you be known for getting those reports in on time?  Will you really want to be remembered for the labored hours you spent in the office, even during family vacations and nights when you should have been home with your kids?  NO!  I think a lot of people will be living with regret in the late stages of life.  Success in business doesn’t always equate to making the most out of your life and what really, truly matters.  Are you really living life right now, or are you just plodding?  It’s like that fog in the early morning…far too soon it will dissipate and vanish.  Don’t take it for granted, don’t waste it on things that don’t really matter.  Invest in the right kinds of things and in people who care and love you.

3.  Some people with less of a life span live a whole lot more than some with a much longer life span…what you make of it matters…

This directly correlates with the last vital point…I met some who are simply coasting through life.  They have no real purpose, they aren’t happy with anything, they are miserable people to be around.  These people (not to sound condescending, but rather a warning here) are just hoping the next life will be better, but they really aren’t living the one they have been given right here and now.  It’s such a waste…have you live this at some point in your life?  Do you know what I mean?  Some people have been given such a short life due to illness, disease or accident, and they lived it to the fullest.  They were full of vigor and passion and it just seem to pour out of them – it was contagious.  I hope we live like that with whatever time we have in this body.  I hope we can laugh and love and cry and experience life in all of its glory.  I never want to be one who merely looks forward to heaven, yet I miss out on, or waste this gift of life I have been given right here and now.
Some of us bury ourselves in elements of life and distractions of life…and then we look up from our cell phones and our social media accounts and miss the beauty of nature all around us.  Don’t miss it.  Don’t miss the glory of God, which is evident all around us.  Soak it in, notice it, embrace it, spend some of your “mist” time just breathing it in.  Life isn’t life unless you’re actually an active participator in it.

I’ve had some peers and friends of mine pass way before their time.  Their life seemed like a brief mist…and sadly gone too soon.  I’ve even performed a couple of their funerals as the Pastor…it isn’t easy, it breaks the heart and it later causes me to think more deeply as to what I am doing with my life – this mist that I am.  Have you been there?  Can you relate?   What I do know is that our journeys have a destination that extends beyond the veil of life and death…and the next life begins with the glory embrace of Christ.  And although I long for that day, I don’t want to mist miss this moment right here and now, where everything and everyone that is important and precious becomes crystal clear.  When that happens to you…what and who do you see?

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

Dear Salvation Army, What’s The Reason For The Holiness Table?

Why do we have this large table in the front of our sanctuaries? What is it for?  Is it for decoration?  Is it to accompany the old modesty rails?  What purpose does it serve?

Have you ever wondered these questions?  -So have I!
So I pondered on this, I did a little digging…and here’s what I know:

Phoebe Palmer’s “Altar Theology”

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2016-02-10 23:04:59Z | |’’ÿ³.‘-s,
Sometimes we see the term “theology” and automatically stop paying attention because some theologies are either so convoluted and dry or they are way too complicated.  Palmer’s Altar Theology is neither.  In fact, it is the very life-blood which gave birth to The Salvation Army’s Holiness theology.  Much of who we are, theologically, can be traced to the turn of the century Holiness/Higher Life Movements.  These evangelists, Palmer being a major contributor, incorporated a major focal point in their service: a call to take a stand, come forward to the Holiness Altar and receive the second blessing, i.e. Entire Sanctification.  This was less a place of kneeling (like our modern day Altar) and more a place to literally take a stand and receive this second blessing.

A lot has changed since the days of Palmer, yet this Holiness table still remains, but predominantly in the United States and England.

Is The Holiness Table Just A Relic Now? table
Few understand its significance anymore.
Very little is taught on it.   Is it still important to the Army, or is it just a relic of a bygone era?
This table has now become a place to put flowers, where the offering plates most likely reside, and perhaps a very large Bible with illustrated pictures.   Have we lost some of our understanding of Holiness because we no longer understand what a Holiness Table is for?

Major Phil Davisson, author of Revelation: A non-scary approach Volume 1 put it this way when I asked him about the Holiness Table;
couttsWe should teach about holiness but emphasize Coutts (General Frederick Coutts) more…The table itself has had little resonance because it has become a display table, and because no one–neither soldiers nor officers–have a very deep experiential knowledge of holiness living, and have been put off by second-blessing / second work of grace confusions…”  Could it be that our lack of teaching is to blame for its near extinction?



Major Jim Garrington recently told me that he himself has given little to no thought of the Holiness Table itself and stresses the education of our soldiers as a must have in worship.  If we are to use it, our soldiers ought to know what is going on.  He went on to say that he is more interested in the outcomes and less the methodology of getting there.   I would tend to agree with Major Garrington,  as well as the thoughts of Major Davisson.holy

Am I making too much of this modern day center piece?
I requested more information from other scholars and historians of The Salvation Army and very few responded to my requests, which makes me wonder even more as to its perceived relevance in our modern worship and/or even historian’s understanding of such an item.  Perhaps it is understood that the Altar (mercy seat) has, in some way, taken the place of the Holiness table as the site of repentance and commitment (or re-commitment to Christ)…but what of the Holiness table then?  Has it become a sacred cow of sorts?  A glorified decoration table?

Steve Simms, author of Beyond Church: The Lost Word Of The Bible – Ekklesia, is also a faithful Soldier with the rank of Sargent (Envoy) in the Nashville Tennessee area; I asked Steve his take on the Holiness Table, its significance in our Army today.  Here’s what he said; “Personally I believe the holiness table was “sacramental” for the early Salvationists (in the best sense of the word). It was a physical object (location) that they could approach to help them release their faith beyond their physical environment and circumstances and touch the supernatural presence of the living, resurrected Jesus…Thus, the table itself is not the goal. The goal is to go beyond the table, encounter, and surrender to the living Jesus…Although the early Salvationists set aside the official sacraments of church, they (unintentionally, I believe) raised other things to the level of sacraments. Truth is, sacramental objects and/or actions are not supposed to be the center of attention. Their purpose is merely to lift our attention beyond our natural surroundings and focus it on the real presence of the living Christ. Once we are enthralled in the presence of Jesus, those things fade into the background.  (examples of things treated like sacraments in TSA are the holiness table, the uniform, the soldier’s covenant, and various ceremonies we conduct.”  table2

Steve raises an excellent point here as well!
Perhaps in exploring and even maintaining the Holiness Table we have inadvertently made it a sacramental item – and something it was never intended to be.   Also, Garrington’s point is further solidified by Simms, in that it was never about the object, or in this case, the furniture in our worship halls – it is, and always should be, about the very presence of God living amongst His people. The outcome of worship, and every element within, should point to a glorified Christ preparing us to be like Him in every way!

Steve Bussey, who wrote an extensive article on the History of the Holiness Table entitled Discovering The Origin of the Holiness Table , and with whom I hope to interview next time, writes this at the end of his article that I believe summarizes where I believe we stand currently, “General Paul Radar is quoted Nigel Bovey in The Mercy Seat Revisited (2010) as saying, “The presence of the Holiness Table is a constant reminder of the central importance of the holiness of heart in the life of our Movement – a reminder that we are and must be a holiness movement.  Ours is a gospel of Blood and Fire!” (p.90) table3

Army Ponderings Continued…
I do not believe we have finished this discussion, I believe we have only just begun.
Next time, I will have some additional contributors as we delve further into this topic.
But for now here are somethings to ponder:
*  Is the Holiness Table still significant in modern worship?
*  Do we inadvertently make certain objects and practices into our own sacraments – even though we perceive ourselves to be non-sacramentalists?
*  Should we educate our soldiers and officers more about the Holiness Table and perhaps even reconsider our Holiness Approach and make more of an effort to circulate more of General Coutt’s ‘take’ on holiness?
*  Where do we go from here?  Do we remove the Holiness Tables from our halls if they have become decorating tables?  Or do we overlook this so that our outcomes and focal point is always Christ?

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
For more reading on this subject, please check out these sources:
Discovering the Origin of The Holiness Table  – By Steve Bussey
Called to be God’s People – by Robert Street
Articles & Blog – by Steve Simms
Phoebe Palmer’s Altar Theology – by Lampstand Restoration
Phoebe Palmer History – by Barbara A. Howie


To Love Lost…

There is this deep, inky black-hole within all of us.
We can pretend,
we can play the charade..
we can place masks upon our faces…
and ignore that it is there…
That everything is “okay”, and yet, when it is late at night
and the sun has set on our false pretenses…
when the T.V. has been switched off and the vacuum of sound descends…
when electronic devices and cellular phones, with their glowing ambient light reflected in our zombified eyes have all been powered down…
it is then that we truly feel its ache within us.
the missing piece.
the black-hole within all of us.

We know that something is innately missing –
that our hearts are not as full as they should be.
That, despite our comforts and daily groanings –
we. are. still. empty. inside.
so we hide it.
we play hide and seek with it.
we bury it deep,
we attempt to just “live with it”…only to dig it back up when the silence is near
and care for it once more.

Could it be that we were meant for more than this?
Could it be that this black-hole is all that we were ever intended to be
and yet we ran from it?
that underneath it all – our prime directive was to fellowship
to walk with
to lean on
to spill our guts to
to share our secrets and dreams and hopes and yearnings with
to confide and love and cherish and soak up the divine in His eyes?
Could it be that this black-hole, this missing piece
IS all the difference
in the world?
Hate into Love
War into Peace
Night into Day
Sin into Holiness

My God,
my God,
why did I
forsake you?
This –
is to love lost…
and found again.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Growth – A Lawnmower Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello…there you are!!” – Featuring Captain Shanais Strissel


Look at this picture of thorny weeds; imagine living in it- right there in the middle of that ugly, painful nest of flesh tearing barbs.  Imagine yourself moving around in there and trying to lay down at night, attempting to get comfortable enough to sleep.

Nope, not going to happen, right? There is no way to move without drawing blood, ripping flesh, crying out in pain- so you remain still, immobile, stagnant…stuck.

Now imagine this:
prune 2

And we clear away all of the thorns and weeds and we find this

flower 3

or this
seed 4

We find freedom from entrapment, a cool soft breeze, sunlight shining on our face, weight lifted, pain relieved and cool, soothing water running along our roots.

Space to breathe

Space to stretch our long achy limbs

Space to let the wounds heal

So what do thorns and weeds and flowers and seeds and space have to do with – anything?

LIFE, they have to do with life and the representation of struggle, pain, agony and victory.

So, imagine with me for a moment that we all start out as a


This little seed has been gifted with potential…potential to thrive and grow and stretch into what God has encoded into its DNA to be, whether it’s a rose or an great oak tree…the potential to be


To be beautiful,

To be unique…

And we are all born into families; families of other unique seeds that have already grown… but the problem comes when someone has come along and planted a bunch of weeds into the mix.

Parents are tasked with the immense responsibility of nurturing their children, their little seeds of great potential, right?

They are there to tend the soil, remove weeds, cut back unwanted growth, provide food and water and a safe environment for constant focused growth into the mighty image that we are meant to embrace- to find joy and strength and endurance alongside capable hands.


But what happens when our parents plant


What happens when your parents only know what life among the thorns is like because that is all they have known and now they are planting weeds in yours?

What about if you go back generations and you see nothing but acres of weeds in your family lineage?

Years of abuse, neglect, bad habits, addictions and on and on and on…all of this baggage serves to cover and hide our identity, our potential to reflect the image of God in our own unique way.

What happens now?

Well, we can’t weed the garden ourselves- it would simply turn us into a bloody, pulpy mess- we simply can’t see where we are going in the midst of that mess.

We could just sit and do nothing, which would leave us to become more sad, angry and embittered to our world and leaving us to pass on our own brand of thorns.


We could desire

Any change starts with a desire to be different, to see things different, to want more out of life than we have been handed, to be more AWARE of the world around us.

It is to recognize that the weeds aren’t good for us and to desire to get the hell out of there, literally speaking to get the Hell out of our lives – that’s the noun not the verb.

When we acknowledge the thorns are there, and desire to see them gone – that’s when real life starts.  God starts clearing the thorns and weeds for us.  He takes on our pain, our agony, our bloody wounds and gives us peace in place of pain.

Does this mean it will be an easy journey? No. Sorry to say it but getting rid of the thorns and weeds forces us to face our own truths and it’s painful but that is the only road to freedom.  The amazing thing is that we don’t walk a solitary journey; God clears the correct path and leads us to freedom and on the road to revelation.

Our true selves are discovered on that journey one root, one branch, one flower, one petal one leaf at a time until the entire beautiful, magnificent, amazingly unique plant is revealed. Well hello, there you are…

by SLS

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