Psalm 13 Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

But even after all of this…

even if You never answer my cry…

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

I will trust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Something more to ponder today.

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army Officers, How To Find The Time For Ministry In 4 Steps

Dear Officer,
what does your normal day look like?
Are there reports to submit, bills to sign, checks to deposit, phone calls to be made, budgets to be crafted (or re-crafted for the 10th time), personnel fires to put out….?  Does that sound about right?  I probably forgot to add, routine maintenance to schedule, board meeting details, corps council action steps to follow through on, people in visit in the hospital, statistics to enter, important community meetings to attend and perhaps a club meeting to participate in…and THAT sometimes is just the tip of the iceberg.

Commissioner George Scott Railton once said, “God requires the duty. If its performance brings no return, that is God’s affair not yours. The soldier who has obeyed every order comes back from defeat, as from victory, with honour.”

I often mistake business for duty, don’t you?
It seems we as Officers and even Soldiers are so good at busy-work that perhaps at times we miss the ministry altogether.  We are very good at being soldiers and obeying orders yet miss the mark on pastoral ministries…and each one of us are pastors and ministry ought to be at the forefront of what we do in and out of uniform.  If we work hard and climb whatever ladder we aspire to, yet lose the “Salvation” in our Army, then we will have lost everything and all of our hard work (duty) will be for naught.

Here are 4 steps to help each of us find the time for ministry again.
I hope and pray this will be beneficial to you as you read these.  Most will seem quite obvious, yet actually following through on them intentionally will certainly be harder.
I also acknowledge that these suggested steps could include many more, yet for the sake of time a succinct list has been compiled here for us to consider.  Also note that it is quite difficult to quantify these and wrap them up in a nice red bow, so as you read, perhaps you will discover other steps that I would ask you to share with us if you would be so kind.

HOW TO FIND THE TIME FOR MINISTRY IN 4 Steps:

  1.  Recognize Everything As Ministry
    ministryAs someone once pointed out everything is spiritual, there should be no compartmentalizing of our various tasks and that of holistic ministry.  I know a financial planner in our community who makes a point of praying for every client that comes to visit him.  He has even prayed with me there in his office.  These prayers that he offers are not pithy cliche prayers either, but one can feel the presence of God while he prays for you and the present circumstances that you are facing.  He considers his office not only the place he draws his paycheck from, but a chapel in which he ministers.  Perhaps we have not made our officers our chapels of ministry.  Perhaps we get so bogged down by what is required of us that we forget to include God in those spaces in order to make them sacred.  Everything we do from the most mundane of things to the most important things ought to be considered ministry – not some laborious task to get accomplished.

    Martin Luther King Jr is quoted as saying, ““If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

    Consider each task ministry – from the least to the most important!

  2. Intentionally Pray And Plan
    We undoubtedly do our ministry a great disservice when we do not first intently pray for it and for those we will meet along its path.  Prayer should never be the last resort, but the first weapon in our spiritual arsenal.  If we aren’t burdened for the needs of others through prayer on our knees then we ought reach deeper into ourselves and explore our hearts and motivation. pray When we pray for each segment of our officership and appointment, we will find that our hearts are attuned to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  If everything we do is spiritual, then why do not pray in such a way?  When we intentionally pray and make this a spiritual discipline we will be better equipped to make the necessary plans that our ministries so desperately need. plan Don’t stumble into your day or week having now idea what you wish to accomplish.  Don’t wait until the last minute to pray for our congregation and those you minister to.  Keep them in the forefront of what you are doing, after all, the paperwork and reports are all because they are vitally important to you and to God.  Do not make haphazard plans at the last minute, throwing things together and hoping they all pan out…do yourself a favor and your soldiers a favor and make intentional, prayerful plans that will form and shape lives for Christ.
  3. Intentionally Show Up – Practice Presence
    cellI catch myself doing this, and I recognize my own conviction here:
    Put down the cell phones, put away the distractions…close the laptop and look your people in the eye.  Show up to your appointment ready to serve the Lord and those He has placed on your path.  Practice the presence of availability.  It almost seems contradictory, but forget those reports and the paperwork and spend time talking to your staff, your volunteers, your corps members…they are all members of your flock.  They will know if you are not actually available to them just by your presentemphasis on the “important stuff” that consumes all of your time.  I would imagine nearly 99% of us officers are guilty of this at one time or another.  Show up and be present.  Ask God to give you His eyes to see the needs around you.  Spend time drinking coffee (or tea or water) with those who frequent your soup kitchen.  Invest yourselves in the lives of people and do not stop with those who wear our uniform and within whom we already know.  Step out of your comfort zone and be available to listen, serve and love.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5AkNqLuVgY

  4. Focus On Lives Not Numbers!
    statsThis step goes hand in hand with #3.
    Be mindful that our “end game” is not filling the statistics with numerical growth.
    If our sole focus is on building our Sunday stats with attendees then all that we will be focused on in church invitations and getting people through the doors of “Sunday Church”….have you stopped to consider that EVERYTHING we do is Church?  Have you considered that perhaps your biggest ministry isn’t on Sunday morning but during the week when you encounter broken people earnestly seeking help?  These are members of your flock that often get taken for granted.  They may never ever darken the doors of a traditional church, but 9 times out of 10 they call The Salvation Army their church home because we feed them on a regular basis and there are people who care for them.  Focus on individual lives of people, how to reach them, pray for them and with them.  Care about them…forget numbers, numbers will take care of itself if we are loving people and earnestly placing their needs at the foot of Christ.

    Evangeline Booth once said, “It is not how many years we live, but what we do with them.”  Allow me to adjust this quote to fit you the Officer today, and I do not think this loses any emphasis in doing so:    “It is not how many years of service you have, but what you do with them.”
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    Something more for our Army and our Officers to consider today.
    Blessings!

    Please tell us what you think and offer additional steps you might offer in addition to these.  Thank you!

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

Dear Salvation Army – 5 Truths About Sacrificial Living…

We are an army that is non-sacramental – I  believe this, but we must actually embrace and preach/teach the necessity for real, authentic sacrificial living its soldiership.  Without this crucial component of sacrificial living, we will have not only rejected ritual observations of the Church by way of communion and other such practices, we will have neglected the true essence of Christ himself (who was without sin, yet suffered and died for us).  If we are to be Holy as He is Holy, we must become like Him in every way – which includes sacrificial living. The season of Lent is upon us, and although we do not practice much of the traditional Church practices within Lent, we would be remiss if we did not explore this extremely important topic of Sacrificial Living.

But First let us clarify what Sacrificial Living is not:
It is NOT:  
-A great display and sanctimonious actions for others to see you and know your piousness and holiness.
-A ploy for promotion or power play for position or status.
-A means to compete with other soldiers and prove who is “holiest”
-A means to fool the world – but you can’t fool God.

If any of the above mentioned motives for Sacrificial living exist within us, we must eliminate them from our hearts and reconsecrate ourselves before God!
lamb
5 Truths About Sacrificial Living:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

  1. Sacrificial Living Requires Consistency 
    But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” 1 Samuel 15:22

    consistencyWe cannot simply declare that everything we do in the corps will be the place of my sacrificial living – NO!  It is all or nothing.  God doesn’t want our sacrifices in one area while other areas of our lives are still not surrendered.  That’s like saying to your spouse, “I will be faithful to you in this city, but I can’t promise anything when I leave this city.”  How can we love the Lord with all of our hearts when we compartmentalize our relationship to Him?  If we are to be soldiers of the faith who are daily living sacrificial lives, we have to subject ALL of our lives under the sovereign, perfect rule of Christ.   Consistency is not easy, and there will be constant struggles to bring these areas of our lives under control.  But rest assured we have One who is with us – The Holy Spirit!

  2. Sacrificial Living Takes Work
    “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” –Romans 12:1.

    If we are to be consistent in our declaration of sacrificial living – we have to meansleeves2 what we declare – and this takes work!  We have to roll up our sleeves, so to speak, and intentionally, moment by moment surrender our wants and desires to God.  We have to declare Thy Will be done, instead of my will.  The work done on our knees in prayer before the Almighty will set the momentum going forward.  If we neglect this spiritual discipline of prayer, we will jeopardize our entire sacrificial existence.  This is a merging of our identities with that of Christ’s.  When we do this, we are essentially saying “I want to be Imago Dei” I am not just imitating Him, I want to be Him in every way.  There will be moments of stumbling.  We will experience great stress in temptation, because surely the Father of Lies will begin to see how dangerous His people will become to his devious plans on earth.  We will experience adversity, days of defeat, weakness – but these are only symptoms of us dying to our old-self.

  3. Sacrificial Living Is An Outpouring of Holiness

    “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” 
    -Acts 2:44-45

    When we declare our desire to be like Christ in every way, our crosses will be carried, and our path will be set.  It sounds paradoxical, but while we experience great sacrifice and discomfort, we will at the same time experience great peace too.  Sacrificial living is not the end result, no this is the outpouring of our longing for holiness in all that we are as Children of God.  This is more than just words uttered.  This is something on a molecular level – changing us from the inside out.  I believe something metaphysical happens when we make it our goal to be Christ in our holyhearts, minds and soul.   You know that when you have been married for a long time – you and your partner take on the mannerisms of each other…sometimes you even begin to resemble one another.  Holiness lived-out with the greatest of intentions and devotion will produce men and women of God who deeply resemble Christ in every way.  -This is what Sacrificial Living looks like and is the evidence of a commitment to Holiness on the deepest of levels.  Dare I say, but we as an Army have yet to even scratch the surface of real, tangible Holiness amongst its ranks.  We talk a good game, but I fear we are no where near it yet.

  4. Sacrificial Living Has No Room For Ego
    ego
    “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.”
    -Acts 4:32

    There’s an old phrase that perhaps you know, it goes like this: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”…even in the Army there is a hunger for power, whether it be in our corps and local officer positions or the Corps Officer, Divisional Officer, Territorial Officer…and so on.  Power is a dangerous vice.  Authority is necessary in any Church, Movement or Mission, but the hunger for power and man’s authority can corrupt all of the above.  In fact, this is what Satan hopes will happen to any adversary of his: that they become bogged down by their own egos and blinded by their own ambitions and thirst for imagined power.  You might say, “but we are The Salvation Army – we have no power.” – every organization, movement or Church has many places of authority and assumed places of power.  What we do with those roles, how we conduct ourselves if we become stewards of such positions determines not only the course of our Army, but the depth of our sacrificial living.  There is no room for ego in sacrificial living!   “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” -Psalm 51:17.

  5. Sacrificial Living Must Be Evidenced In Our Soldiers & Officers!

    More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” -Philippians 3:8
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    If we are truly a Holiness movement – then we must act like it!  We must eliminate every element of back-biting, gossip, slander, ego, power-plays, Church politics that elevates one over another, personal vendettas and all other kinds of selfishness!  Somewhere along the way we left the call for holiness in a pulpit sermon and lost our way.  We will not move or correct any kind of mission drift that is egocentric if we are not really actively engaged in sacrificial living.  Let’s stop talking a big game, and putting on a big show as we tout our Holiness Movement member’s cards (I’m being facetious)…let’s drop the pretenses.  If we want to see an Army on the move and if we long to save souls, then we first have to start with our own.  I am not questioning our salvation, I am questioning our depth of Holiness and Sacrificial Living.  Let’s practice what we preach…and perhaps for some of us, we need to fall in love with God all over again in reconsecration.  I love this army, but without soldiers, officers and adherents who are living sacrificially, and committed to the great commission of saving souls and making disciples, we could face extinction a generation from now.

    Something more for our Army world to Ponder today.

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    *Disclaimer:  the thoughts and opinions expressed here are the writer’s thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.*

A Transforming Year – Reading #1

As promised, I will attempt, with the help of others, to include a Pondering daily devotional this year.  I hope that this might be found useful to all who read it. -Blessings!

Reading #1
Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” -Romans 12:2

What will this year have in store for us?
Will it be an epic year, or will it be a difficult year?
What challenges will I face?

As we look into this new year of 2017, we cannot but help to wonder what might happen, both the good and the not so good.  Despite the fact that we do not know what the future holds for us, we do know who holds that future!  Our faith must not be so shallow as to worry about what could happen, or what might take place…these things are beyond our reach, and as Matthew 6:25-34 describes – what good is worrying?…”Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...”  The only thing that worry is good for is wasting our time and efforts.  Let go of what could be, or what might happen…these worries distort and consume us if we allow them access to our innermost thoughts.

Instead, let our focus verse become just that today – Your focus.
Do not allow the elements and issues of the world around you to decide how you will live or interact with others.  These concerns of the world will always be there, but at the end of the day can we really control it all?  – NO!

Do you want a transformation that lasts much longer than any new year’s resolution?  Then look no further than God’s Holy Presence to begin that new and good work within you!  It won’t be easy.  There will be setbacks along the way, but with His power and strength, all things are possible!  But I must warn you – this path takes discipline and diligence to see a marked improvement of the soul.

Take time today read this focus verse…read it more than once.
Perhaps say the words out loud…even take it step further and write these words in your own handwriting somewhere, perhaps in a journal or a piece of paper you can post on your refrigerator or some place prominent.  Pray for God’s transforming power to begin this good work within you anew.

Homework: (Don’t be afraid, there won’t be a test)
* Read the words out loud
* Write them down
* Pray about your concerns and worries – begin to lay them one by one at God’s feet.
* Invite God into every aspect of your day – from beginning to end.

Prayer: 
Dear Lord, I have these worries in my life.
Fears about tomorrow.
Stresses at work and sometimes with my family and friends.
Intercede in my life today!
Remind me of your transforming power that will guide and provide me peace in the midst of my storms.  Help me this year Lord to trust you more, to worry less about the world around me that often consumes my thoughts and leaves me drained and empty.  Give me a passion for others that reflects Yours.  Change this heart of mine, transform my thoughts, ambitions, desires and efforts into an outpouring of love for You.  Thank you for Your presence with me, now walk be side me into this new year.  In Jesus name I pray these things.  -Amen.

ponderings

Dear Salvation Army, Convenience or War?

booth“We are not sent to minister to a congregation and be content if we keep things going. We are sent to make war…and to stop short of nothing but the subjugation of the world to the sway of the Lord Jesus” – William Booth

Today I wish to ponder upon our identity and that of our action as a Salvation Army.
I believe the chief dangers of our Army currently is comfort and prosperity.  I speak primarily to the Western world “Army”.  Not as an indictment, but rather as a conviction of mine.  We are comfortable. We have where places in the world does not have even a roof to worship under.  We can call it blessed, and it certainly is, but within that “blessing” there is the real danger of becoming lazy.

-Lazy with Jesus’ teachings.
-Lazy with the need to leave our buildings.
-Lazy with the necessity for Holiness.
-Lazy with the Officer or Local Officer in their preparation for Sermons and Teachings.

Comfort can produce these dangers if safe guards are not in place, and spiritual disciplines are absent.  (I am not calling anyone lazy in this pondering, merely warning all of us of its lure and harming  effect it has on our mission)

go onGeneral Booth’s quote here seems to indicate that it is not The Salvation Army’s mission to maintain .  Are we doing this right now?  Are we simply playing it safe and maintaining the status quo?  What of Spiritual and Corps Growth?  What we are we doing within the context of Suffering/Serving Humanity that leads to lives being transformed?  Our Army is NOT about becoming like another Church…or is it?  Is it an erroneous thought that we are Church or that our evangelistic approaches should mimic that of other churches?  What are the dangers of such an approach?  Do we get it wrong sometimes when it comes to this train of thought (Distancing ourselves from being just another “Church”)?

I know that the Booths truly believed that they could win the world for Jesus, and i’m not doubting that this is possible, BUT…was this quote simply used to rally the forces in some sort of pep talk/rally OR are we to wage spiritual warfare everywhere we look?

Some Truths: fight
We have become slightly (maybe more than slightly) comfortable in our cozy corps and structured programs.  We have sort of evolved, funding sources have more guidelines, we have more to lose and so we protect the ground we have already gained and risk much less often…tell me is this Booth’s vision of our Army?

I do not wish to sound like a militant Salvationist, but are we lacking something in this current approach?  I know that I’m not the only one asking this.  I know that there are leaders all around the world in our Army seeing this very same danger.  So…how do we fix it?  How do we go about turning the ship (sometimes Titanic-like behemoth) around?

I Believe… 
*I Believe we are not to be an Army of Convenience.
*I Believe we are not to be an Army of Comfort.
*I Believe that if we barricade the corps doors and insinuate ourselves with program and “play” church, and look like all the other churches – we will have lost our Blood and Fire Souls!
*I Believe this generation needs to step up our efforts in the fight against sin in our communities.
*I Believe a little civil disobedience in order for deaf ears to hear of the hope of Christ needs to be utilized once more.
*I Believe that we need to rely less on where our next funding source is coming from and more on the Great Provider to grant us these gifts.
*I Believe that Holiness in our Ranks means that our mission will not face extinction.
*I Believe that without prayer in the pews we will not have warriors for Christ in the streets.
* I Believe that without spiritual disciplines employed in our personal daily walks, we will be greatly weakened, Christ’s image not realized, and more susceptible to the lures of temptation.
* I Believe that our Army is in need of a revolution which can only begin on our knees in full submission.
*I Believe what make us an effective army is the Holy Spirit’s power, and the obedient-servant hearts of soldiers!

ArmyI do not belong to a convenience Army…do you?
May we continue to wage war in our communities on sin.
The darkness is very real in towns and cities.
Suffering because of sin still occurs…and we cannot, we will not turn a blind eye to those who are suffering!

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

 

 
Disclaimer:  The Opinions and thoughts of the writer do not necessarily reflect the opinions and thoughts of The Salvation Army.  

Dear Salvationists, The Mercy Seat

The hope of the Army is in the penitent form.  As soon as that goes out of use, we go out” (General Albert Orsborn)

We call it the Mercy Seat, others call it the Penitent Form, still others call it the Altar.
Why is it there?
What is it’s purpose?
Is it still valid and needed today?

Perhaps these are just a few questions that you’ve wondered about as you have participated in a Salvation Army service or meeting.   Some have, perhaps, been soldiers for years and never quite understood why we do what we do when it comes time for the “altar call” or “time of response”.

Is this practice outdated or is it still useful?
What is the biblical understanding of the “mercy seat”?

I believe Major ViJay Boda puts it rather succinctly; ”

“The International Spiritual Life Commission affirmed to the whole Army world that the mercy seat in Salvation Army meetings symbolises God’s unremitting call to his people to meet with him. It is not only a place for repentance and forgiveness, but also a place for communion and commitment. The report emphasises, ‘Here we may experience a deep awareness of God’s abundant grace and claim his boundless salvation.’

Encouraging the use of the mercy seat, the commission says, ‘The mercy seat may be used by any one, at any time, and particularly in Army meetings when, in response to the proclaimed word, all are invited to share loving and humble communion with the Lord.”

altar.jpgThis is a good explanation, and perhaps some of us are good at explaining this to new comers or new soldiers…but sometimes I think we need a refresher course.  We need to break old patterns and old molds in order to better understand what we are doing at the Mercy Seat or why we have these moments of commitment at all.

Biblically speaking, the Mercy Seat is first mentioned in connection with the Ark of the Covenant.  It is the “kapporet“, or the “atonement piece”.  Later it was the ornate golden cover to the ark with two cherub corners.  Imagine that, the “atonement piece” covers the opening to the very presence of God.

altar2Symbolically speaking, Jesus became our once for all- atonement piece – our mercy seat.  His blood makes us clean, and his provenient grace cancels our debts/sin.  When we kneel at this place of repentance that we call the Altar, or Penitent Form, or Mercy Seat, we are essentially placing our sins on Christ.  We lay them down, and in so doing, we are invited to pick up new clothes, a new life, this unmerited grace and forgiveness that Christ has prepared for us in His death and resurrection.

This Mercy Seat can be a sacred place.
We can kneel upon it in our corps buildings during Holiness meetings, we can find it at special events where seats have been turned around waiting for those willing to repent or seek reconciliation.  These sacred spaces are not necessarily holy in and of themselves.  They are just structures, constructed with human hands, but purposed for Divine encounters.

altar1BUT WAIT… 
The Mercy Seat is so much more than a specific place.
We, being the very essence and the body of Christ, now have access to this mercy seat anywhere at anytime and anyplace.  No, it’s not some new application found on our cellular devices or on our computers.  This Mercy Seat is never far from us, even when we find ourselves at home or bedridden with illness – it is there!   This Mercy Seat is found in our hearts.  When we receive Christ at a place of forgiveness and new life, such as the Altar, we also receive the blessing of His Holy Presence.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us.  Not in some sort of alien “body snatchers” way, but rather in a Creator meets and communes with Creation sort of way.  With His presence comes the mercy seat of our hearts, where we can come at any time before Him to confess, commune and grow in Christ’s image.

Samuel Logan Brengle once said, “I have carried a penitent form (mercy seat) around in my heart half a century or more. And if there is ever any need, I constantly fly to thee.
altar3
1 Mercy Seat – Many Uses (Not Just A Place For Sinners!!!)
Before I close this topic  today, (honestly, this is a primer for further discussion), I would be remiss not to mentioned  that the Mercy Seat is SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PLACE FOR SINNERS.  It takes real courage sometimes to come before the ecclesia (body of believers – A.K.A. The Church) and kneel at the Altar.   Sometimes many worry about what others might think or say (Shame on anyone who would say anything towards a brother or sister penitent before the Lord).  Sometimes this erroneous thought that keeps on circulating spoken or unspoken – is that once one has gone to the Altar they shouldn’t have to go back anymore.  Nothing could be further from the truth!!

If one of our more esteemed first theologians (Brengle) went to his Mercy Seat frequently, how much more do we still need it in our lives?

The Mercy Seat still beckons us to:
-Come and Reconnect with our Savior.
-Come and bring petitions and prayers as intercessors.
-Come and cast our  prayers of thanksgivings to Him.
-Come and seek forgiveness again.
-Come and find reconciliation and re-ignition.
-Come and pour out those deeply secret spaces of our hearts before the Holy Spirit who has been prodding us to let Him in.
-Come to surrender, or surrender again.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs encouragement and assurance.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs a friend.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who desires new life and is sick of sin.

So is the Mercy Seat pointless in our modern, sophisticated age?
Yes, it’s as pointless as the Son of God stepping down out of heaven and taking our sins upon himself…if that is truly pointless – then so are our lives.

No, in fact the Mercy Seat is so much more than just a kneeling place for sinners or saints…it is the exhalation of sin and in the very same moment, the inhalation of salvation, new life and holiness.  It ought to be perpetuated, preached on, and emphasized over and over again – with clarity, sincerity and truth.

For more reading on this topic check out another post: Is Your Mercy Seat Broken?

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

Dear Salvationist -Watch Your Mouth!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29

The Holiness Movement is far from dead.
We, as Salvationists, have within our veins more than the figurative colors of red, yellow, blue…we have the image of Christ within our hearts.  Not to say that other Christ-followers do not, or that we are better than anyone else, but this message, this pondering is primarily for Salvationists in our world today.

We face difficulties in our communities and in our culture which makes it hard to be truly set apart for God.  The lure of many things comes knocking at our doors and begs us to participate, to comprise, to ignore this calling.   Is it possible to look so much like the culture that our effectiveness in mission is compromised?  Is there a line that begs and pleads alluringly to be crossed?  What of our attitudes, our hearts, and our speech?  Do these go hand in hand with our lifestyles, with our mission?

There isn’t a time clock that we punch when we accept this holy mission of Christ’s.  We are either all in or not at all.  We don’t wear the uniform to the corps but once it’s off at home we become someone else, with a different set of life rules.    We are beckoned to “go into all the world…”  We are asked to “take up our crosses” and follow Christ.  If we are to imitate Him in every way (Ephesians 5:1), then this includes what we say.

Confession: blah
I can be cynical at times (That’s not a shock to some of you).
I always joke that I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm, but sometimes that sarcasm takes a very harmful turn.  My speech isn’t always as it should be.  Words can become barbs that are razor sharp that can cut to the heart of people faster than any blade could ever penetrate.  I know this of myself.  I make no excuse of this.  Does that mean I wish to continue to the live my life in a verbal rut?  Of course not!

Dear Salvationist
blood and fireDo you have the deep desire to continue to grow in Christ?
Is there, within your heart, the Spirit’s pleading to become more than you are right now?
Are we settling for the verbal ruts, the bad habits, the inexcusable behavior?  Do we make excuses and/or rationalize these away in order to make them more palatable and accepted? I can tell you truthfully that you will never really know peace within your heart as long as you continue to reside where the Holy Spirit does not want you to reside – in regards to ungodly habits and behaviors that are contrary to your covenant or promise to Him.

Like our tithe, like our commitments to God – if we continue to only give Him a portion, we will never be truly satisfied living within His will.  What is God’s will for us?  Read Micah 6:8 again “He has shown you, oh man what is good and what the Lord requires from you.  To live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”   Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Watch Your Mouth!mouth
Be mindful of your mission field.
Be aware of how ungodly speech corrupts your heart and those around you.
What kind of speech am I talking about?  Not just profanity and course language, but (and more importantly) unkind words towards others, Gossip of any kind, malicious-hate fueled speech.  Words that do not build up but instead destroy.  Soldiers of this Army; more importantly Soldiers of God do not act this way…should not act this way!  Watch your mouth…it can build souls and help them become more Christ-like, or it can burn the heart and fuel it into hatred towards God…that is how helpful or harmful your words can be.

Questions to Ponder Today:
How can I change my patterns of speech?
Do I recognize those moments when my words become barbs and are used as weapons?
What is the Holy Spirit instructing me to do within my actions and my use of speech?
What kinds of changes do I need to make right now?
Have I settled for where I am right now or am I willing to grow through the direction of the Holy Spirit?

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

Dear Salvation Army – Matters Of The Heart

Dear Salvation Army,
What we do day in and day out matters in our world.
Don’t ever forget why we do what we do.
If we ever lose sight of this relationship that we have with Christ, His Holy Presence with us, I fear we will lose our way completely!

This work is arduous.
This work is often without reward – we don’t seek rewards or earthly recognition…do we?  The mission we have been given is to provide hope, to show others the way to Christ, to instill the deep need for Holiness in our corps and in our lives.  We are, at times a gateway for those who have never set foot into a church, let alone those who have never left the door open to a Christ that cares.

The Salvation Army doesn’t exist to feed ourselves, it should never be an organization sold out to the almighty dollar and the stipulations assigned to those funds.  Sometimes when compromise happens, one wonders where our “walk by faith” went?  We aren’t in this mission to merely survive…we will thrive and be faithful in all seasons including those in which we struggle.

Programs & Lies We Buy…
Photo Dec 01, 12 46 55 PMIf all we do is programs and our hearts remain at home, we will have a soul-less building devoid of people seeking spiritual growth, holiness and this new creation we are to become.  Sometimes I fear we settle for what is instead of what could be…or what SHOULD be.  Soldiers, in essence we listen to the lies of the Great Deceiver when we buy into the acceptance of where we are right now and that we are incapable anymore of growing in the grace that Christ offers.  We convince ourselves that we aren’t good enough to receive entire sanctification, or we must become biblical scholars to get there.  We make every excuse in the book to NOT change that we run the risk of becoming stagnant and meaningless.  This is exactly where Satan wants us to remain.  If we remain here, we are no longer fit to be called an Army of Salvation, but instead the Army of Stagnation.    This is pretty harsh, because I believe we buy the lie that we cannot grow, or that we are limited in our growth.  I believe we stunt our growth and the workings of the Holy Spirit when we don’t allow Him access to EVERY corner of our hearts, minds and lives.

Discipleship of the Heart…
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

Photo Dec 01, 7 33 19 AMWe need to understand that what our corps do – matters.
What WE do as Soldiers in and out of the buildings we frequent MATTERS! This matter of the heart – means that we are living intentional lives both for the benefit of other believers and future seekers of Christ, as well as for our spiritual growth and development.

Dear Salvation Army Soldier, 
Be teach able.
Allow not only the Holy Spirit to instruct you in continual growth, but also other believers in the faith.  Do not allow your hearts to become hardened.  Do not become stiff necked people, who reflect more of the Pharisees of old than Christ himself.  When we lose sight of whose reflection we ought to emulate, we will have lost our reason for being an Army of Salvation.

Photo Nov 07, 7 30 14 PMBe Intentional
The words your choose, the friends you empower, the content (both visual and literary) you consume, the attitude you have around your community…IT ALL MATTERS.   If you cannot recognize the need for continual spiritual growth in your life, then beware.  We cannot become an army of arrogance and ignorance in regards to the matters of the heart.

Be Holy.
In word and deed – be holy.  Strive to be Christ-like.
Don’t take the short cuts, don’t sell out your faith or cheapen it in anyway.  Recognize that what you do on Monday through Saturday is just as important as what you do on Sunday in the Holiness meeting…it just might be more important.

heart.jpgThis message is for Adherents, Soldiers, Officers, Commissioners as well as the General.  It MUST be a matter of the heart.  We cannot only rely on “the law” to prop up what we do – we must first be HIS, and from that everything else must flow.  How is your heart?  Have you been guilty of listening to the lie?  Have you sold your need of Holiness short?  Is it incomplete?  Are you stagnating right now in your faith journey?  Perhaps this is my wake call…perhaps this is yours.  It is a matter of our hearts.  Forget all the programs that we throw around to “attract people”, forget all the “doing” that we are good at…it means absolutely nothing if our hearts are not completely His.

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

*Disclaimer:  the thoughts and opinions express on Pastorsponderings are the writer’s own thoughts and opinions and are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.*

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