Facing The Wall – A Pondering On Problems

If you think of a problem as being like a medieval walled city, then a lot of people will attack it head on, like a battering ram.  They will storm the gates and try to smash through the defenses with sheer intellectual power and brilliance.  I just camp outside the city.  I wait.  And I think.  Until one day – maybe after I’ve turned to a completely different problem – the drawbridge comes down and the defenders say, “We surrender.” The answer to the problem comes all at once.”  -Arthur McKinsey

We all face the wall from time to time.
No, not like a child being placed in “time-out”, but like the insurmountable walls of our problems and stresses.  The kind of wall that seem to effortlessly and ominously climb into the sky and cause us to panic at the sheer magnitude of our problems.
Photo Nov 10, 12 07 14 PM
You know the old saying, “making a mountain out of a mole hill” – this is the mountain becoming a super mountain.  This is the small speed bump in the road of life becoming a sink-hole.  Sometimes we can do nothing but watch the city burn as we attempt to blow on the flames.  I don’t wish to paint a dark gloomy picture today for you, but I would be lying if I said walls of this magnitude never come our way.   They do.  These types of problems will come knocking on our doors.  They will just show up sometimes.  Other times they have been cresting on the horizon for a while…perhaps we just ignored the warning signs.

wall2Are you facing the wall today?
Does it seem  insurmountable?
Do you feel heavy with burdens and heart sick with these problems you are attempting to carry?

I won’t sugar coat it for you today.
There isn’t some magical pray for you to recite and *poof* all of your problems will fade away, but I would like to offer you some perspective on your walls.

The Truth: 
wallsWe all face walls.
We all endure heartache, stress, hardships…and sometimes more hardships.  Life isn’t easy…this we know all too well.
BUT – We aren’t alone.
We should all know that each of us carries difficulties, we carry stress, we face walls together.

Jesus says this still to us today –
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” -Matthew 6:25-27

handAnother Truth: 
God will show up for us!
He will be there when we call.
Sometimes He provides a means to overcome these walls.
Sometimes He provides us the endurance to wait it out.
All of the time – WE AREN’T ALONE!

Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.” -Psalm 55:22

Waiting is the hardest part…but, we can either hem and haw about it or find the resolve to be patient.  Many times I have opted to hem and haw – (gripe and complain) about my situation instead of waiting patiently.  Did it help?  No.  Was it the best use of my time?  Absolutely not.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” -Psalm 27:14

I don’t know what wall you’re facing today.
It might be a small fence, or it could be a fortified city.
Either way, you will survive this!
You matter to God!
This life we live has it trials and troubles…but I believe in the One who overcame the world…do you?

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

Burn Your Ships And Commit!

cortesThe History Lesson
In 1519 Hernan Cortes, Spanish explorer, landed on Mexican soil.
He and his 600 Spanish troops were commissioned to take Mexico for Spain.
In a swift move to stave off any thoughts of retreat, he commanded that his fleet be burned.

Can you imagine being one of those six hundred men on alien soil standing there watching your only lifeline to the ‘old life’ being burned at sea.  The only recourse was to make progress deeper into this unknown land; to fight, survive and claim it for the crown.  The ships were gone, they had to fully commit or die.

For Us. 
I am not justifying any other actions of Cortes.
Some of his decisions were down right brutal.
That being said, I do believe that there is something here for us today.

Spiritually speaking…
Have we burned our ships in the act of a full commitment to Christ?
Are we still looking back longingly at the places that we used to live before we accepted this new life in the form of Salvation?   Do we (even subconsciously) consider this “commitment” to be temporary while all along we have a fall back plan in case it just doesn’t pan out?

I believe even Jesus had disciples in His day that had one foot in the new life while the other foot was still firmly grounded in the old.

(Luke 9:57-62)

The Cost of Following Jesus
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The cost of following Christ is high!
The commitment level of such a calling is total or none at all.
We cannot have one foot in the new life while our other foot is firmly planted in the old life.
Either we are all in or we are not in at all.

Perhaps it is time that we burned the ships.
Perhaps it is time to burn that which holds us back from making that full commitment to Christ.
Don’t allow those things to pull you in two different directions any longer.
His path, His calling is the path of true peace, of true redemption, of true love.
When we burn the ships, we can no longer turn back from His will for our lives. ships
He wants a relationship with us that requires a full commitment.
So, how about it, are we willing to burn the ships?

Something more to ponder today!

4 “Christian” Phrases That We Should Stop Saying!

Let me set the record straight before delving into this list of four things Christians should stop saying.
I am not bashing Christians, or Christianity here.
I honestly think the phrases below (and many more) have already done enough damage.
Millennials  (and most other generations) want authenticity when it comes to the topic of spirituality and faith.  Pumping out cliche’ after cliche’ will not help bring your genuine faith into focus, it will only make it harder for others to accept.  I’m pretty sure none of us want to be labeled a phony…but we probably could name some along the way through various experiences.  That being said, let’s stop “playing” church and start living for Christ.  Let’s stop harping on other people and start focusing on our own issues.

4 “Christian” Phrases That We Should Stop Saying: 

1.  God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.  handle
I’m sorry, but does God really give us problems in life?
Sure, He can send us to some very difficult places like He did with the Apostle Paul and the other disciples, but does He really afflict us with “stuff”?  Is that what this phrases is all about?  The fact of the matter is that life, especially to a Christ-follower’s life, WILL be difficult from time to time.  The Apostle Paul doesn’t say “Hey guys, things are going great and God hasn’t given me more than I can handle…”  No!  He talks a lot about finishing the race, perseverance, persistence, and difficulties.  Next time you think about uttering this phrase please think it through.  Perhaps life has thrown curve balls at us now and again, but God will provide us the strength to make it through.  Sometimes life IS more than we can handle, so don’t “sell” something that isn’t always true!

help2.  God helps those who help themselves.
This phrase honestly is my #1 pet peeve.
People sometimes fire this verbal artillery shell towards people who seem lazy or poor and unwilling to work.  I have found this phrase to be detestable when used in this fashion.  It’s judgmental.   It’s ignorant…and it’s wrong.  Please find that passage in the bible…It’s not there.  The phrase was actually made famous by Benjamin Franklin’s book Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1757, but in actuality is attributed to Algernon Sydney in 1698.  God in fact does help those who can’t help themselves.  Isn’t that, after all, what Christ demonstrated in His death on the cross?  “While we were still sinner (helpless), Christ died” (Romans 5:8).

In Jesus’ ministry, He often took pity on those who could not help themselves.
If we are to emulate Christ in every way shouldn’t we do likewise and in so doing ditch this erroneous “Christian” phrase?

3.  Name it and claim it! name
“If you believe hard enough, it can be yours”
“If you pray hard enough for money and that new car, it can be yours…you just need to name it and claim it”…um NO.
Such “name it and claim it” philosophies are just flat out wrong.  I should clarify that Jesus does say “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20), but the “Name it and claim it” philosophy takes this scripture completely out of context.  What is the purpose behind our faith and our convictions?  Is it to please God?  Is it to do His will?  OR Is it so we can afford nice stuff, and have lots of money?  There’s nothing inherently wrong with money, but if it becomes the thing we worship and in so doing we start “naming and claiming” things just get what WE want, then we have lost sight of God.   Stop naming and claiming stuff.  It’s not about stuff.  It never was.  If that’s all we do with this phrase, please, please stop!  

happens4.  Everything happens for a reason.
Another misquote of scripture is to use this: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.…” Ecclesiastes 3:1,2.  This phrase sometimes goes right along with “God won’t give you more than you can handle” as sort of an excuse for when it does become more than you can handle.  Just chalk it all up to “well everything happens for a reason”, or (and here’s a twofer) “well maybe it just wasn’t God’s will“.

Truth: Sometimes life has no rhyme or reason.  Sometimes thing just happen and it wasn’t in God’s plan.  I don’t want to get too theological on this pondering today, but I don’t believe everything is controlled 100% by God.  This is where free-will comes in.  This is where life comes in.  People make choices, both good and bad.  People unfortunately die for no fault of their own and I find it extremely hard to say that innocent people died because it was all according to God’s plan or that “Everything (including their death) happened for a reason.”  Not that’s not the same thing as God can make something beautiful out of horrible situations, because I do believe He can…but we just can’t go around chalking everything up to it happening for a reason.  Sometimes there just isn’t a good reason.

These are just 4 Phrases that we should stop saying.
I know that there are more, and I know that not everyone will agree with me.
But, for what it’s worth, here is something more to ponder today.

God Bless You!

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Healthy Habits For Soldiers

To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” Ephesians 4:12-13

crestWe as an Army are in the Kingdom building business.
Our employer…no, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has given us this great commission.
We are more than a church…
we are a movement.
We are more than just another social services agency…
we are a part of the body of Christ committed to reflect His image in the corners of the world that we are called to.

This is a tall order.
We are to be like Christ
…and yet in our own strength we cannot accomplish this calling in our lives.

In our own strength we will fail.
(Trust me, I’ve fallen flat on my face far too many times to count.)
In our own strength we will fall horribly short.
So, with that being said, what sort of attributes do we need in order to make this “reflection of Christ” visible?
What do we need to do in order to be the best soldiers for God?

Today I would like to offer just three healthy habits for Soldiers.
This is not an exhaustive list, nor are these the only healthy habits to commit to, but these will perhaps get us all on the right track if we aren’t already there.

3 Healthy Habits For Soldiers: 

pray1) Prayer Never Ends!
Make prayer more than a scheduled time in your day.
I’m not saying don’t have scheduled time, but don’t put prayer in some sort of manageable box that you keep those conversations with the Most High in.  Don’t leave the conversation.  Yes, begin it in the morning, but don’t ever end it.  Take the conversations with God with you into every moment of your day.  Obviously to be seen talking out loud to yourself might be frowned upon by some who might think you might be losing it…but instead, in your thought patterns, keep your conversations with God going.  There shouldn’t be an “on/off” switch with heart talks with God.  He has promised to never leave us or forsake us and He is always there, so why not begin to include Him in your every day routines both big and small!  Eventually, the inclusion of God in your thoughts and conversations will change the way that you see the world and others around you.

2) Feast Only On That Which Edifies! breaking-bread_650x366 (1)
You have most likely heard the term “garbage in, garbage out”.  This term implies that if you put garbage (rubbish/trash) into your life, gargage (rubbish, trash) will be what you produce in the world as well.  If you wish to become healthier in life, you wouldn’t feast on high fatty foods from fast food chains every day now would you?   No, instead you would begin a rigorous attempt to eat right and to exercise.  The same can be said of the heart and soul.  These attributes of the body requires maintenance and they require the right kind of nourishment.  If we claim to be a disciple of Christ but we constantly binge on garbage with only a sprinkling of His Word, then we are seriously starving our spiritual life!  It should be no surprise when we find ourselves spiritually dry and lacking fortitude, we haven’t been working out and staying in shape by feasting on the right kinds of things!

Listen, if we wish to walk in faith with Christ BUT we haven’t surrendered our old ways of life, then something is terribly wrong.  The old must pass away in order for this rich, new life to thrive and grow!  We just cannot hold onto both.

From the Word: 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” (James 3:11)

Make sure that you are feeding your souls with the right kinds of things!  Don’t starve your spirit with junk food and things that will only stunt the potential growth that God has in store for you!

step3) Step Up And Out!  
When we take prayer seriously and we include God in our daily routines things will change.
When we begin to feast on the edifying fruit of God, things will change…
Stepping up and out will not always be the most comfortable thing you ever do, but it does become a true test of who God has called you to be!  It not only benefits other people, but it also improves our skills and abilities in sharing our faith!

The real the tipping point in it all is this:
Do. Not. Keep. It. To. Yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Step up.
Help others along!
In the words of General William Booth – “Do something!

It is like that old Sunday School song “This Little Light of mine”:
One of the verses goes – “Hide it under a bushel, NO I’m gonna let it shine!!”
When we include God in our daily conversations and we are feasting on the things that edify this new creation within us, we can’t help but proclaim His goodness and love!

soldierWill there be discouraging days?  Of course.
Will we ALWAYS feel like proclaiming, and ALWAYS be in the mood to share?  No, not always.
Will we be happy all the time?  No way!

When we invite God’s presence to travel along with us both with the important and the less important things in our lives, we begin to see how much He loves other people around us.  This love will propel us forward into service.
We are saved to save!
We are saved to serve!

This is NOT an army of mediocre washouts and wishy-washy salvationists!
NO!  We are here to be Christ’s hands and feet!
We are here to proclaim His name in both the good days and the bad days!
We are here to serve the lost, the poor, the widow, the orphan.

If you are reading this today, chances are you long to improve your soldiership as well!
If you are reading this today, you, like me, believe God is calling us to a deeper service and a deeper understanding of the sin-sick world we serve.
We all have room for improvement.  We all have room to grow.  We can all reflect more of Christ and less of ourselves…but only through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit!

Do you long to be a healthier Solider for Christ?

Perhaps these three healthy habits can help you on your way to becoming the Soldier Christ has called you to be!

-Something more for this Army to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

We’re all looking for a minute of God’s time.

We all want that face to face meeting.
We all want to spend just a few moments with Him…to ask Him things.
Perhaps we want to ask Him “why”…
or perhaps we wish for some sort of encouragement and reassurance.
Some people have giant decisions that they have been battling with, decisions far too big to make alone, and they are crying out to God for just a minute of His time.

Don’t you just wish that you could pull up a chair at a coffee shop,
or sit on your back porch and talk to God about things?
Don’t we all wish we could have THAT face to face?
To have that heart to heart conversation.

I think when we look at the bible and we see disciples and other characters who physically talked with Jesus, we are secretly jealous.  We wish we could have that.  We wish we could experience that.
We long to have that one on one moment, that eye contact thing that happens between friends.
We all want that theophany when creation meets creator, not just in a deep moment of prayer and meditation, but a real life encounter with God.

In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, He would visit them every evening in person.  He would fellowship with them.  He would talk with them.  Obviously that relationship was horribly, irrevocably disrupted by a choice.  That relationship was tarnished by a decision to disobey.  But despite that rift in relationship, despite that sin, God has made a way for us to repair the damage done.  God actually met us more than half way.  The Creator could’ve just started over with His creation…but He didn’t.  THAT IS HOW MUCH WE MEAN TO HIM!

BloodThis whole salvation story.
The Cross.
His Death.
His Resurrection.
His Ascension.
It is all preparation.
It is all about preparing us.
It is all for us.
It is…
building up…
until we finally can see Him face to face.

bench We may never have that glimpse of God as we sit on a park bench.
We may never wrestle with an Angel.
We may never physically put our hands in His hands and side.
We may never watch Him bring Lazarus back from the dead…

But we do have a minute of God’s time.
He does hear us.
He does speak.
He is evident in those who love and serve Him.
He can be seen in the hearts of the penitent and the righteous…although sometimes they are few and far between.

God, I want to be counted in that number.
Lord, I want to be the very reflection of you.
Show me those things that still need working out in my life.
Forgive me when I have fallen and have not reflected You in anyway, shape, or form.
I don’t want a minute of your time…
I want and eternity of it…but it starts here, it starts now.

Will I listen for your still small voice?
Will I hear you as you speak?
Will I put feet to my faith and live for you?

We all want a minute of God’s time.

Seeking Dead-Jesus… (a reflection of Mary at the tomb)

I keep thinking about Mary encountering Jesus in the garden post-death.
Imagine it with me if you can:

She is going there to properly take care of his dead body.
She is going there to shed a few more tears in private.
She is going there to say goodbye.
Her heart is as heavy as a led balloon.
She just can’t wake up from this nightmare.
Rising early that morning, a night wrought with bad dreams and sleeplessness, she heads directly to the grave.
Call it a moment to convince herself that He’s really gone.
Call it a part of the mourning process.

Rounding the last turn in the overgrown garden she comes upon a sight that she cannot quite explain.
Reason fails her and she is pauses a step to take in the scene attempting to comprehend it all – His grave is open.   Picking up the pace, she closes in on the tomb and enters all in one quick motion.  The place where they had laid Jesus is empty,  it is vacant.  Had the authorities changed their minds?  What happened to the body of her teacher, her rabbi?

Mary runs back and gets the disciples who, upon hearing this troubling news, run to the tomb to check it out for themselves.

Fresh tears begin to well up in her eyes as a lump forms in her throat as this all takes place.
Where is Jesus?
Why had they done this?
Could they not have left Him be, allowing this one ounce of dignity?

griefStepping back out of the tomb, the early sun begins to crest the horizon and spills effortlessly out upon the garden igniting it in hues of orange and red.  Mary doesn’t know what to do.  She is dumb-founded.  Mary peers again into the tomb to make sure she has seen it correctly, as grief can often cloud the ruffled edges of judgment and understanding.   Then…something catches her eye – two angelic forms standing beside the place where dead-Jesus had been laid.  They speak to her.  “Woman, why are you crying?” they ask…as if the meaning of death and loss meant nothing.  But Mary swallows back tears and replies “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have put Him.”    Uttering this very statement is like releasing the floodgates in a dam and her resolve breaks and so does her heart.

Suddenly, a shadow passes between her and the fire branded sunrise.  It is the silhouette of a man.  It MUST be the gardener coming to tend to the property before the hot sun engulfs and wilts the plants.  It must be someone who knows something about where Jesus has be taken.  Once again, the question is asked of her, this time by the man standing silhouetted in front of her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”  Again Mary sniffles and forces out a tired, bitter response amidst her flowing tears “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

She is at the end of her strength.
She is beyond heart-sick.
At the very least this can be done – recovering Jesus’ body.

Then, something remarkable happens – the dead speaks.
The man before her says one word that brings water to a desert.
This one word means more than the content of thousands of words meticulously strewn together in a book.
He speaks this one word and the storms of mourning cease.
He speaks this one word and shattered pieces of her heart become whole again.  mary
In her weakest state she recognizes just who He is.
In her tear-blurred eyes and flood of grieving heart, she finds renewed strength in His presence.
She calls out to Him by His respected title – ““Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Mary is overwhelmed with joy.
She is filled with relief.
The sun, now in its fuller light shines upon the son of God in all of His resurrected glory.
He is alive!
I keep coming back to this story because often we too keep going to back to the empty tombs in our lives.
We keep coming up with the wrong conclusions.
Doubt casts its shadow upon our faith and it weighs heavily on us.
Doubt blurs our resolve and shakes our foundations of belief.
We stoop down into that tomb time and time again and we forget that we do not serve a dead-savior, but a risen one.
We need to look up and see Him.
We need to recognize our teacher.
We need to find Him once more for ourselves.
He wipes away our tears and longs for us to cry out to Him.

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

What if we are “doing” Church all wrong? Pt. 2

Yesterday I talked about three erroneous ways in which we go about “doing” church (Link: What if we are “doing” Church all wrong Pt.1)  Somebody pointed out to me that we don’t really “do” church, instead we’re supposed to “be” church…He was absolutely correct.  That being said, more than often church goers are rooted in the location that their church building resides. We are called to “be” His Bride.
We are called to “be” sons and daughters of the Most High.
We are called to “be” hold as He is holy.

Photo Jan 09, 9 46 06 AMThe “Ceremony”
Yet, there are times when the things we “do” in church becomes our primary focus.
Don’t get me wrong, some of these acts of worship are important and can lead us into a deeper fellowship with other believers and more importantly with God…but what if our “being” gets overshadowed by our “doing”?  What happens then? What I mean is this:  What happens when the ceremony, and following the “proper” forms of worship (whatever that looks like from denomination to denomination) becomes more important that the true meaning behind all of those ceremonies and forms?

Could we just be “playing” church? pretend
Do you remember when you were a kid?
We used to play Cowboys and Indians, or “Dress-up” or Doctor.  It was a fun imaginary game.  We would assume these roles and play the part, and it was fun.

Is that what we sometimes do in church?
Are we just going through the necessary motions that we think we should be going through?
Are we “playing” church?  Sure, it’s fun from time to time, it’s like an acting gig in a drama.  We know all the right things to say,we wear all the right outfits, we sing all the right songs, but are we missing the mark? Are we missing the real reason we gather in the first place?

News Flash: God doesn’t want our ceremonies and our acting gigs.  He wants our hearts.  He simply wants us to “Be” His and His alone!  He doesn’t want to share us with anything else in this world.  God is truly a jealous God seeking after our hearts and lives.  Even distractions and ceremony can become our idols of worship if we are not careful.  Churches could be “doing” church simply because that’s how it’s always been done (Tradition), and so they maintain those traditions which can lead to losing any and all original significance on the premise of “maintaining”.    Other churches could be “doing” church simply because they strive to do worship drastically different than prior generations (Contemporary), and so they maintain that level of worship which can also lead to losing any and all original significance on the premise of “being different and more progressive”.   There’s nothing wrong with forms of worship unless they begin to replace God.

One might think I’m taking this too far, but hear me out.
“Doing church” is less important that “being” the church.  Sometimes we sacrifice significance and holiness in exchange for forms of worship and proper protocol.  We can become so stiff in our regulations of worship and what we think worship should look like that we can eventually lose all meaning.

When I think of this danger, I am immediately drawn to two stories in scripture:
1) Cain and Able
2) The Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
Cain – didn’t offer God the best, he did go through the motions of his offering, but it didn’t mean anything to him.  His offering was the left overs, lacking love – it was “doing” church.  God wasn’t pleased with this ceremony of worship.  God knew Cain’s heart.  It’s like two lovers confessing their love for one another.  After the first says “I love you”, the other says “Well I kinda like you”… that’s just not good enough.  It’s surfaced.  It’s not what God desires.  It’s all or nothing.

Photo Jan 09, 9 36 47 AMThe Pharisees/Hypocrites in Jesus’ Day:When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.…” (Matthew 6:5,6)

In other words, are our prayers (and even forms of worship) merely for the benefit of others? Are we acting our parts in church?  Are we doing church all wrong?

The word ‘Hypocrite’ literally means “actor”.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite.
I don’t want to be an actor in church, I want to be genuine in my faith.
I honestly do not want to go through any kind of motions just because that’s how we always do it.

Are we merely acting in church?
Have we lost the meaning of what we do in our forms of worship?
Have we stopped ‘being’ holy so that we can ‘do’ church?
Are we more afraid of offending the formal pattern followers in church than we are in offending God in our offerings?
Are we seeking to please God or others?
Is this all that Church is about for us?
Soldiers: Are we more concerned in pleasing our officers, our founders in how we look and act than how we are in pleasing God in our genuine offerings?
Are there sacred cows that need to be finally put down and sacrificed to God?

confessionIf I’m honest, this article is all about me.
I’m the hypocrite…if you relate, perhaps we’re in the same boat.
Sometime’s I have been more interested in getting everything just right in worship than I have been about getting my heart right.  Sometimes it’s much easier being the actor than it is to be real.  -can you relate…I hope you can! (Please tell you can relate!)
I’m not criticizing, I’m just wondering how often we act the part in ‘doing’ church instead of ‘being’ His?
Again, more questions that answers.

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

Dear Salvation Army – 5 Things They Don’t Prepare You For In Officer’s Training

Let’s face it, not everything can be taught in a class room.
Would it shock you, dear soldier, to know that they can’t teach you everything you need to know about becoming an Officer while at training college?  Probably not.  But when the rubber does meet the road, and when an officer is finally commissioned and takes their first appointment, they will still have to learn A LOT!  Somethings just can’t be taught without first experiencing them first hand.
Today I have listed only 5 things that they don’t prepare Officers for while at the college for Officer’s training.
It’s not that they didn’t want to teach these things, but as I’ve already said, somethings must be learned while on the field.
There are many more categories of experiences that Officers can’t learn while in training, these are just a few:

1.  The Realities Of Non-Profit Finances
Budgeting class is still a far cry from ACTUALLY crunching the numbers in your community and ensuring you have enough funds to cover payroll, bills, and other incidentals that frequently pop up.  Unlike the class room setting, in real life certain sections of this budget has human identities associated with the numbers you come up with.  Become too conservative with a figure in the employees section of the budget could mean you have to eventually cut a person from your staff…that’s not fun at all!
Secondly, often you will find that there just isn’t a lot of money to work with.
You might be blessed to be sent to a community that supports your efforts and the finances are sound, but more than likely you will find that every dollar is difficult to raise and equally harder to hold onto.  We all know it’s not strictly about the money is it?  It’s about providing opportunities and resources for people that we can help.  Without those quickly evaporating funds, you will find it a struggle to meet human needs in His name!

2.  The Need For Personal Mentors And Encouragers
I remember many Cadets in my session who were about to be commission groan about the arduous lifestyle while at training college.  How constricting it was.  How they couldn’t wait to finally get out of there.  I felt that way too sometimes, but in reality when we were finally sent out and appointed to specific locations, many quickly recognized how seemingly isolated appointments can truly be.  Even in metro appointments, the work schedules do not allot for much connection time with other officers.  A recently appointed officer can begin to feel alone and even abandoned.  Our first appointment was five hours from our Divisional Headquarters.  Sometimes that felt like a blessing, while other times it felt like it may as well have been 4000 miles away.
Officers need encouragers and mentors.
We cannot do this great work alone and without support.  Find a pastoral association to belong to.  Locate a pastor from a different denomination in your community to connect with.  Seek out friendship.  For those that are introverts this can be difficult to do (putting yourself out there) but it is necessary for your sanity and survival.  The question often becomes “who shepherds the shepherd?”  Certainly your divisional headquarters has a role to play in this, some are good at it and some not so much.  Honestly most divisional officers that I know make a concerted effort but they are just as busy as you are.
News Flash:  Don’t depend solely on your divisional staff to support you within the role of encouragers and mentors…it’s just not going to be immediate (most of the time).  Seek out friends, other pastors, sometimes mature members of your corps can help too.  You need this type of relationship to keep you going…trust me, it’s not necessarily spoken much of at training college but without it you will feel utterly alone, defeated, and potentially in your office drafting your resignation letter.

3.  The Brokenness Of Humanity And Counseling That Brokenness broken
Some of the stories that we hear as officers behind closed doors in an attempt to counsel people are heart breaking.  We all, more than likely, had a counseling class in training… but it fails in comparison to the time consuming sessions we will face in our officership.  Sometimes there aren’t easy answers and quick fixes to a lifetime of problems and hurts that will enter your office.  Sometimes all we can do is whisper prayers to the Lord for guidance in the midst of these horrifying tales of abuse, hurt and sadness.  We truly do have an opportunity to impact the broken in our communities.

Don’t assume you’re Dr. Phil or Dr Oz or whoever…this isn’t some sort of tv show.  These are lives.  They matter.  Be in earnest prayer for those that will walk into your office.  Gird yourselves before these sessions take place…sometimes they are spontaneous and without that preparation of prayer you will be caught off guard.  Be encouraged though, this is what you signed up to be and to do.  Also be encouraged because the Great Physician will provide you direction and guidance. Lastly, where possible, have contacts for professional counselors in your area who can help. Refer some cases if you can, but that doesn’t mean you stop caring or don’t communicate with that person again. Remember they came to you…they trust you! That’s a heavy burden to carry and quite a responsibility too!

4.  Love Over Knowledge
love1I was a gungho cadet, full of ideas and passion…that passion hasn’t left it’s only been re-tooled.
I remember, as many cadets do, walking across that platform to take that commission and appointment and thinking now everyone will finally see what I can do.  Pride?  Yes.  Naive?  You bet.  But don’t lose that passion to serve and to save souls!  Don’t back down from defeat and discouragements…they will happen.  Difficult days will come.

Note to self: Stop trying to be “Super Officer!!!”

Here’s a clue for all you cadets still in training, and some of the best advice I’ve ever received from another officer and mentor: Beyond knowledge, love your corps members!   Don’t look at this appointment as a stepping stone to a better appointment.  Don’t overlook the needs of the few who come through your doors every Sunday and midweek.  Love them.  Cherish them.  Show them Christ’s love.  It will sometimes take great effort to show that kind of love.  Sometimes you will become impatient and want to give up on some…but don’t.  Don’t be led by all the head knowledge but have nothing in your heart for the ones you lead.  It becomes obvious.  People WILL know when you don’t love them.  People WILL see beyond your grand schemes and plans and knowledge.  Love first…and last.

defeat5.  Not Every Battle Will Be Victorious
The world for God! The world for God!
I give my heart! I’ll do my part!
The world for God! The world for God!
I give my heart! I’ll do my part!” -Evangeline Booth

Not every battle will be victorious, dear soldier.  Some battles will be lost.  Some soldiers, some corps members, some recent converts will walk away.  Some will reject the love we offer, but we must do our part regardless of the losses in battle along the way.  If we are faithful and true to our First Love, we will overcome.  It will be far easier for us to give up.  It will be much, much easier to walk away.  To also throw up our hands, retreat and never press forward again…but resist that temptation.  In training we were surrounded by other cadets and officers who would spur us on.  In the class room ideologies are shaped and formed.  Ideas are born inside of us, but when we walk out to take appointments, we come face to face with battles we are far too ill-equipped to win on our own.   We must rely on His power and might to not only sustain us but provide the victories in these un-winnable battles.  When we exchange our power for His, all things become possible.  When we exchange our feeble, temporal knowledge for His everlasting eternal knowledge – all things become possible.  When we stop attempting to win the battle on our own and are driven to our knees in complete submission to Him – all things become possible…but it only happen when we die to self and become selfless like Him in every way.
Dear Cadets, Soldiers, Prospective Cadets (and even Officers) – You will NOT be fully prepared to go to those appointments.  College for Officers training can never fully prepare you for all of the possibilities that the field will bring your way…but know this:    The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, The God of David goes with you.  You are never alone.  Lean on His direction.  Seek Him out daily…even moment by moment.  Be encouraged!

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Light is never buried (A poem)

We said goodbye
to her dazzling smile
the glow of her light
dimmed, flickered and died.
We bid farewell
to her stunning song
the last refrain
the tears…
of pain.
We mourned for her
beneath a banyan tree
with arms dug deep
into the ground.
Our wetted eyes
the deep groanings
of our throats
we buried her
song, her love, her light
and yet she will shine
brightly forevermore
within us all.

Dear Salvation Army, Expressions of Christmas Distribution…

distributionIt hasn’t happened yet…but, “Santa’s Workshop” is in full swing as presents and other gift items are placed on folding tables where our Sunday School class usually meets and are now being carefully sorted by a precious few volunteers.  It sort of feels like a big build up to a crashing finale’ in an orchestra piece.  The triple fortes are being played and soon the timpani will come exploding in the rallying final note that is held out, emphasized and controlled by the conductor’s raised hands…I’m waiting for the signal, the final “cut off”, the conclusion.  It all culminates and concludes here.  All the hard work, the radio spots, the television minutes, the rushing from place to place in order to drop off angel tree tags only to return numerous times to retrieve bags, boxes and ornately wrapped (even though year after year we ask for “unwrapped gifts”) presents.

Sometimes it seems a far cry from a small infant who was born into our world and placed in a feeding trough for animals.  Sometimes, I can kind of see a glimpse of the nativity from our chapel from here.  Sometimes, I wonder if this is as vital as we make it out to be, or if we’re missing the point…and by “we’re” I mean both you and me and those who receive such services.

flashbackBut…Flashback from last year…
I saw Jesus.
I glimpsed His smile in a mother who’s cheeks were wet with tears because we could help her make ends meet this Christmas. -Times had been hard for her.
I glimpsed His caring eyes as parents came to our Social Worker and gave her a thanks laden card that said “you matter and without you here we would not have had a Christmas this year.”
I glimpsed His nail scared hands in the numerous voluntary services those who had come to give of themselves and of their time to this Christmas cause.  In these simple gifts of services I saw a servant Jesus stooping down again to wash the disciples feet – how humbling such acts can be to behold!

I recall Jesus’ words to His disciples when they were squabbling over who would be the greatest disciple in the kingdom and Jesus cuts them off and says, “…whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.” (Mark 10:44)  Sometimes I think this ministry is anything but “greatest work”, it is hard laborious, back breaking work.  It has some rewards in this world, but notoriety and fame is certainly not a part of that.  Sometimes living out this expression of servant demands far more than we’re willing to give.

Thankful and Thankless…
Not everyone will receive these gifts with grace.  Some, with great pride will look upon such an offering and refuse it because it is beneath them.  Some will scorn these works and the efforts put forth hour after back breaking hour by priceless volunteers because it doesn’t meet their standards.  Yet, as infrequent as it occurs, a few will come having worn the bruises of this world, and with eyes welling up and choking back the weary restrains, say “thank you!”.  These few make it worth while, not that we are looking for their gratitude, but it does help to know that an impact on our community has been made.  It does help to feel productive for the Kingdom.  No, perhaps souls were not won at some kind of “Toy Shop Mercy Seat”, but perhaps a seed of generosity, grace and love was planted here.  Perhaps such acts of mercy will cultivate a loosening of the soil around hardened hearts.

And…as they go from that place, with bags of toys, clothing and food, children’s lives will be altered.  Perhaps a glimmer of hope will be found.  Perhaps this simple expression of love with spark a child-like interest in the Divine.

These Aren’t Just Toys…toy story
This isn’t about the blockbuster movie series “Toy Story” where toys will come to life.
This is about something more, something deeply heartfelt, some sort of of personal/spiritual contact with another soul who is searching.  This is not just about toys and physical needs being met…this is something more.  This can be about something more if we can look past the tired eyes, the weary bones and herculean Christmas effort.  Yes, it can be a sin to overwork ourselves.  Yes, it can be wrong if we misplace the true meaning of Salvation born in a manger.  This can be about so much more than just providing gifts at Christmas…but the question remains what will we make it to be?

lineNot Just Another Production Line…
I’ve been to Walmart, Target, Bestbuy and other market places this holiday season.  I’ve seen the madness.  I have witnessed the rush to get the perfect present.  I too have stood in those check-out lines, waiting impatiently for my turn.
BUT…when families and individuals come to The Salvation Army,  who are in need, we cannot treat them like just another number in a long line of other “customers”…they are people!  There is dignity in grace.  There is compassion in calling on names rather than numbers.  Can we change this persona?  Can we make it personal?  Can we become something more than just another production line?

It’s coming…and as we provide these basic human services  to those who are in need at our distribution, will they see Jesus in us?  Can we share that hope?  It may sound like lollipops and rainbows here, but the reality is what we do matters and we can truly make an impact for the Kingdom!

Are you ready?  
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

nativityIsaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

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