Lenten Perspective Day 4: Featuring Major Stephen Court

The Resurrection means everything to me. It means that instead of having just a dying Jesus, a Saviour from my sins, I also have a living Jesus, a Lord for my life. Without the Resurrection I would be limited to following a body of teachings from the righteous Christ. With the Resurrection I also have a vital relationship with the reigning Christ. If Jesus’ history ended on Good Friday He would be one among many great philosophers and founders of religion. As His history continued beyond Easter, Jesus is distinguished from not only every philosopher and every founder of any religion, but from every mortal who has, in his or her own way, vainly sought God. By His bloody propitiation Jesus is able to relieve us from the penalty of sin. By His glorious Resurrection, He is able to relieve us from its power. Therefore, I have received salvation from the dying, sacrificial Christ; and sanctification from the living, victorious Christ. HALLELUJAH! Have you? If so, celebrate it! —- Grace.

Court

 

Major Stephen Court is an avid writer, blogger, speaker and Officer of The Salvation Army.
Check out his blog site at:  http://armybarmyblog.blogspot.ca/

 

Lenten Perspectives Day 2: Featuring Steve Simms

A Personal Admission Statement (for Lent)

by Steve Simms

 Success coaches make a big deal about the importance of having a personal mission statement. It’s a good thing to know (and write down) your purpose and the calling on your life. 

However, there is another statement that is far more important — a statement that clears the air of self-deception and denial — an admission statement. So, what do we need to admit?

The season of Lent focuses on that. It is a time for humility, for self-examination, for acknowledging our sin (and sins), and for genuine repentance. Lent reminds us of an unpopular truth, that we human beings are all sinners before the perfect and holy God. 

The mass of humanity (including Christians) objects to that fact. People say and believe things like: “I’m a good person,” or “I’m not a sinner.” But are those statements accurate about you and me and the rest of humanity? They aren’t according to the Bible.

Jesus said: “There is none good but the Father.” Romans states, “There is none righteous, no not one,” and “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Numerous Bible characters agreed with God’s assessment of their sinful nature and evil thoughts, words, and actions; by making bold admission statements. The prophet Isaiah said this about himself; “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” And Apostle Paul, wrote: “I am the chief of sinners,” and “I know that within me, that is within my flesh, dwells no good thing,” and “O wretched man that I am!”

The tax collector in the temple made a bold admission statement, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Meanwhile, the very religious Pharisee, trying very hard to be a good person, refused to make a sin admission statement. Instead the Pharisee prayed this self-congratulatory prayer; “God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

As long as we, like the Pharisee, believe that we are good people, we’ll never fully know the incredible depths of God’s grace toward us. Jesus put it this way, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” If we think that we only needed a little bit of forgiveness, we will only have a little bit of love. However, when we realize that because of our personal sin, we need infinite forgiveness (that cost God the death of His Son), we’ll follow and obey the living God with glorious gratitude, passionate praise, and lavish love!

So how can we ever know the depths of our sin and the incredible cost to the Father to give us His grace? We can sincerely pray this prayer of King David. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me.” As we do we can allow God to show us our sin nature and the sins we have committed.

As we behold our wicked ways and see what an incredible degree of forgiveness that God lavishes on us, we will be undone like Isaiah. We will be overcome with thankfulness for Gods awesome mercy and forgiveness — grace greater than all our sin! Then, like the tax collector, we’ll began to make admission statements: “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Lent is a wonderful time to write your own, personal admission statement. 1 John 1:8-10 can help you with that. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

SteveSteve Simms is a Soldier in The Salvation Army in Nashville TN, a Speaker and Author of the Book:

Beyond Church: The Lost Word Of The Bible- Ekklesia

Dear Salvation Army, For THY Mission Make Me Holy

Dear Salvationist, the movement of This Army of Salvation is inexplicably wrapped up in the holiness of the body of Christ.  Without this deep desire to be Holy and then to do holiness towards others, we become just another social service organization.  In the midst of doing the most good, often times the danger of making the mission ours and ours alone can squelch the desire to seek after God’s mission first.   How then shall we best serve the Lord and then others?

This is the main thrust of our pondering today, for I fear we as an Army have, in some ways, lost the “main thing” while in the pursuit of human approval and for our recognition of the works of our hands.
The question then becomes, “how can we shift our focus back to the mission of God?”

Here are four statements to help realign or replace our mission with God’s mission:

  1. Many lose the mission because surrender was never an option.  hat

This statement becomes deeply personal, for at the heart of such a declaration the defensive walls are raised, and we begin to tune out…don’t tune out, instead stare it dead in the eyes.  Is surrender an option…a REAL option in our hearts and lives?

We don’t like to submit to anything, because many times submission means we lose and someone else wins; but that’s not how God works.  When we submit to God, His mission and purpose becomes our mission and purpose for being.  We do not lose our identities in this, we gain our true new creation, the identity God has always intended for us to be.  From the very beginning of our being, God was present and He saw what and who we could be, but it is in our surrender that this identity can only be fully realized.

Since we have free will, the notion to surrender to the mission of God instead of command the mission is a foreign notion.  We want power to decide.  We long to be the captains of our own ship, and so the mission might be lost at the expense of our identities and authority.

  1. An accomplished mission at the sacrifice of holiness is no mission worth living.

bloodI once heard the story of a captain of a ship whose vessel had run aground and was in the process of sinking.  Many people were frantically evacuating on lifeboats, while there were still who were trapped below.  A noble captain would make every effort to save everyone, even to the point of one’s own life; but this captain discarded all sense of duty and ethics by abandoning his own ship, leaving the rest of the passengers to fend for themselves, many perished for lack of rescue.

Dear fellow Salvationists, there is the temptation in our army to do the most work instead of doing the most good, and in the process of doing the most work, the ethics of holiness could very well be abandoned.  I have heard story after story of officers and soldiers who have neglected their first ministry (their children and family) at the expense of their appointment, mission and public perception (both in and out of the army leadership realm).   Such a loss of first mission leads to a mission not worth living for!

We can grow the largest corps ministry in our territory and have lost everything if our own children turn from God because we failed to disciple them, and we left them to their own devices.  We were never appointed by the Army to be people pleasers.  We were never appointed to ministries apart from our families.  We cannot be effective, holiness teachers apart from God’s holy mission…but we cannot accomplish mission without holy living to our first ministry.

Our focus, before we feed a hungry soul, and before we DO anything, is to live within the very presence of God.  We must yearn and strive for such an image in our own life – the very image of Christ in us.  Without the image of Christ visible and living through us, our hands and the good they may do, will only serve the temporary and not the eternal purpose for which we have been ordained and called.

3.  Why mission? Whose mission? Happy Mission? mission2

Why do we do the things we do?  Is there a purpose behind it?  Are we not called by God to go into all the world, making disciples of every people?  (Matt. 28:19)

If we have to realign our mission, we first must go back to the original source of our that mission!  Who is it that commands our lives, and longs for our surrender?  Why is He calling us to this deeper purpose?  How can this all be done?

prayerChrist called not the qualified, but he qualified the called.  We don’t need to wait for that degree to be completed before we commit to His mission.  We don’t need to wait until we are older before we commit to His mission, nor should we delay for any other reason!!  The God of Abraham and Moses and David, still calls us to go.  The God the disciples served still calls us to go into all the world.  Our mission hasn’t changed, but has our priorities?  Have we neglected our first love?  Have we become distracted by other missions and other “services” that really have nothing to do with His mission?  If so, perhaps it’s time to discard those distractions…and once again follow Him.

4.  Before, during and after = Holy!

altarHow long must we be a holiness movement?
How long do we live this way?
This call to holiness in our service to God is not a temporary calling.
This is not a disguise we throw on to convince others or ourselves.
NO!  This is a conscious decision to ACTUALLY live for Him in every moment of every day.

Our Very Breath.
It has been said, that the ancient writers of scripture wouldn’t even write the name of God because it was far too sacred.  But if they had to record God within the text, they would use the letters YHWH or YHVH…Yahweh is spoken and you cannot help but speak it like you breathe.  In other words, may the name of God be the VERY breath you take every. single. moment. of. every. day.

So before we live mission – YHWH…
While we live mission – YHWH…
After each particular mission or victory is accomplished – YHWH…

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
If we are to live and breathe the mission of our Army, we first must live and breathe the mission of God into our lungs, into our lives, into the very fibers of who we are…and whose we are.

Because let’s face, leaders can let us down…
Volunteers can let us down…
Employees can let us down…
Friends and fellow Salvationists can let us down…

But God will never fail us or forsake us!

Dear Salvation Army,
without Holiness, our mission fails.
without committed Soldiership, our plans fall apart.
without a sincere love of Christ, and for others, the great commission that is wrapped up in our Blood and Fire flag will become a lost cause by disinterested and apathetic individuals looking to fulfill only themselves.  We are called to greater things.  We have been commissioned for the whole world, not just our own little bubbles.

Perhaps it’s time to re-explore our mission and purpose once more.

For Thy mission make me holy,
  for Thy glory make me Thine
  sanctify each moment fully
  fill my life with love divine.”

verse 2

Have I lost the sense of mission
That inspired my early zeal,
When the fire of thy commission
Did my dedication seal?
Let me hear thy tender pleading,
Let me see thy beckoning hand,
Let me feel thee gently leading
As I bow to thy command.

3.
Lord, release that latent passion
Which in me has dormant lain;
Recreate a deep compassion
That will care and care again.
Needy souls are still my mission,
Sinners yet demand my love;
This must be my life’s ambition,
This alone my heart shall move.

-Brindley Boon
(SASB #682)

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

Dear Salvation Army, Mending Fences…

Dear Salvation Army, reconciliation is a beautiful thing.
We seek it for our soldiers, we preach it from our pulpits, but do we truly live it?
I have heard it said that we as people are quick to expect forgiveness when we have been wronged, but what about when we have performed the misstep, what then?  How quickly do we respond to the hurt with the seeking of forgiveness and reconciliation?  It can be likened to the parable that Jesus told about the unforgiving servant who had just received forgiveness for a huge debt that he owed.  You would think that he would go home with great relief and treat others the same way he had just been graciously treated, but instead he returned the favor by harshly treating someone who was in his debt.  (Matthew 18:21-35)

My fellow Salvationists, we can be so good at distributing grace to the stranger, but to those within our ranks, at times that grace is missing.  One might say that because we operate within an authoritarian leadership model, one has come to expect harsh treatment amongst the ranks…let me ask you is this how Christ led his disciples?  Of course not!  Let me clear the air, there is no excuse for leaders who lord their power over those they have been given authority over.  Eventually they will receive the same kind of treatment that they have doled out.  Please do not misunderstand what I am saying and take it to mean that I am directing this conversation solely on Divisional and territorial leaders, as a matter of fact, dear Corps Officers, you ought to be very mindful of the power you have been given in your current appointments too!  How you treat your soldiers ought to be the way that you desire to be treated as well!

Let us prick this very vein of conversation today in order to arrive at a very important destination – Reconciliation!
I have heard some very sad tales of officers and soldiers leaving our ranks because they felt that they were no longer welcome and/or specific people, who had an ounce of power made then feel powerless and useless.  Perhaps I should interject here and compare our attrition rates with those awful circumstances mentioned above and wonder aloud if we are not self-destructing because a minority of people were given power and they horribly misused it?

Proverbs 13:10 says, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  Perhaps some of us need exactly that today.  I am most certainly not the one who ought to give it, for I am just as imperfect as the next soldier…but I do feel led to offer just three helps upon the road to reconciliation today that I feel our Army should consider.

Instead of paving over the pain and pretending those hurts are not there…
Instead of turning our backs on those who have left our ranks for any number of reasons…
Instead of ostracizing, criticizing, and gossiping…

Here are three very simple suggestions for ALL of the Soldiers in our Army both high in rank to the adherent considering soldiership.

1 Admit to the wrongs
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” -Proverbs 11:2
Are we so haughty in our hearts that we are above admission of guilt and wrong-doing?
Do we fear that we will lose credibility and our place of power amongst the ranks if we admit our missteps?
Could it be that in order for us to truly move forward as an army and in our mission, we have to humble ourselves so that He might lift us up?  (James 4:10)  This “humbling” includes owning our failures both corporately and individually.  If we wish to seek failure and loss of mission, then keep sweeping the sin and guilt under the rug as we think no one will ever notice.  But if we wish to experience fulfillment of mission and victory over sin, then we have to admit our sins and failures before God.  Yes, admit the wrongs, but don’t remain or live there, for to do so will lead to certain disillusionment and disgrace.  We merely stop there to own our failures…but remember He will lift us up when we discard pride and put on humility.

2 Atone for the Wrongs 
I firmly believe that one of the cruxes of our army today is the willingness to forgive the shortcomings of prospective believers and new believers than it is to forgive the shortcomings of “the saints”.  We treat soldiers who have fallen more harshly than we would ever treat a stranger…why?  Because they should have known better?  Are we not still susceptible to the lures of temptation and sin even if we don on our uniforms?  Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”  Did you catch that last part?  It says “GENTLY”.  All too often we are more harsh with fellow soldiers and officers, so much so that we have driven some away from our ranks, and they will never set foot in a corps ever again because of the pain we have caused them.  How do we atone for such a thing?  How does the Army move past these wrongs?  The true authoritarian, devoid of faith, would simply relocate that officer (if it was an officer involved)…they move them to a less desirable appointment or far away from the blight that was caused…but is that really what a Holiness movement ought to do, assuming we still carry that mantel and title within our hearts as a mission?

I am not naming any specific situation, I am simply pointing out what a true authoritarian model of leadership would do.  Within this strict sense of this model, true authoritarian leaders are to never be questioned or opposed because to do so would unravel the very fabric of the organization’s identity.  This model can often be on display from the corps setting all the way to IHQ.  This is not to say that all leaders portray this model, but perhaps because of it, there have been times that wrongs were done and then swept mercilessly under rugs in the attempt to forget and not to forgive.  If we as Christ-followers wish to travel the path of reconciliation, we have to own up to our wrong doings and stop sweeping.  The truest form of bravery, sincerity and grace is found in making peace when you were the one who once sought war; To attempt to mend the broken that you once broke.  The bigger man or woman, the truest leader amongst us is one who admits and makes the attempt to atone for wrongs done to others especially those amongst (or formerly amongst) our own ranks.

3 Seek Reconciliation:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  -Matthew 5:23-24

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9

Reconciliation doesn’t just happen once, it happens as often as there are wrongs to be righted.  I recall a time when I harbored anger towards a person in my corps and on Sunday morning I had to preach while that person was in the congregation.  I remember how my words felt like heavy weights that I could not lift, let alone speak.  How can I be sincere with my fellow soldiers if I had not sought to mend that which was truly broken in my heart and in that particular relationship at the time?  Was I at fault?  Absolutely, and it took every ounce of my courage to swallow my own pride and need to be right and make every effort to fix that relationship, only then would we be able to move on.  Once that was accomplished, it was like a large exhale had been released within our corps.

Dear fellow Soldiers, perhaps the reason your corps or your spiritual journey has been halted is because there is reconciliation that needs to take place.  Swallow your pride and seek it out, stop holding your breath of guilt and shame…exhale it in relief as you seek to mend the broken.  The hardest place to do this is with your fellow soldiers and officers with whom you hold animosity, pain and perhaps shame.  Holiness is dead if we are not able to offer grace towards one another.  Holiness is dead if we cannot admit, atone and reconcile both as individual travelers and as fellow sojourners.

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

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Things About The High Council…

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

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

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

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

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

Additional News Links on this topic:
IHQ Announcement

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

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

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

5 Things About Faith No One Talks About

Today, I want to talk about something that doesn’t get talked about enough…our faith and the things we don’t talk about.  That sentence sounds funny, but there’s nothing funny about the silence of Christ-followers in areas of faith that need explaining and deep conversations in.  Here are just 5 of these…I know that there are many more.

doubt

  1.  Doubting is Normal 
    I used to think that there was something wrong with me because I struggled with doubts within my faith.  I thought I was the only one who struggled this way, until I met other Christians who were honest and allowed themselves to be vulnerable.  Only then did I realize that our faith journey frequently possess places in which we experience doubts.  Talking about it helped, and I began to realize I wasn’t the only one struggling through these areas of doubts.
  2. Prayer isn’t always answered…in the way that you think it should be.talk
    This might seem obvious, but I don’t think we talk about prayer, REAL prayer enough.  Prayer isn’t about communicating with some magical genie, or shaking a magic 8 ball to get the desired answer that you’re looking for.  Sometimes prayer doesn’t turn out the way that we expect it to.  That doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening or that He doesn’t care, it just means that the answer could be “no” or it could be answered at a much later date.   It might seem cliche’ but God’s time isn’t always how we view time or how things should happen, but He’s still there for us.  God still cares, and if truth be told, that is very tough to hear when loved ones are taken from us when we prayed and prayed and prayed for them to be healed and they weren’t.  So does prayer shape our faith or doesn’t work in tandem to it?  Just remember, that just because our prayers weren’t answered, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t accessible or listening.
  3. Not all “Christians” can be trusted
    trust issuesMany of us learn this the hard way from time to time, but not all Christians ACTUALLY care about you or will invest their time in your life.   Be mindful of this.  I am certainly not advocating that we do not trust other Christians, but be aware of who you confide in and use your common sense.  Yes, we ought to be vulnerable before other Christians, but if the “Christians” that you are around don’t encourage, or share their lives with you, then perhaps you should be careful not to overshare.  There might even be times where you should seek out other groups of Christians who might be more compassionate and attentive.  Find Christ-followers who will build you up, challenge you and edify your walk with Christ.  Proverbs 4:23 applies to your mentors and peers as well, so guard your heart!
  4. Real Struggles aren’t shared in church…most of the time.  struggle
    This goes hand in hand with the trust issues of Church as well as doubting – no one wants to be seen as vulnerable or struggling in their faith, when in reality we all struggle from time to time.  Why can’t we talk about real issues in church?  I think we need to break the notion that we have to show up on Sunday (or any other day you go to Church) and have everything together in your life, in in reality LIFE is messy!  Why can’t we be honest about this?  Until we stop putting up fake facades and wear masks in church, we will never see growth!

    **I would like to call out the picture perfect Christian who never struggles with anything and looks down their nose at anyone who does struggle – STOP IT!  You aren’t helping anyone, in fact you are preventing growth from happening.  Also, I would call out your lie – if you’re alive you face struggles in life…so get over your prim and proper pious self and help others in their faith and stop pretending that you’ve got it all worked out!**

  5. Sin and Consequences of Sin is REAL.
    sinLastly, I wish to tread carefully here.
    Why don’t we tackle the topic of sin in Church?  Why don’t we talk about it?  Maybe it’s because we don’t want to guilt people into making changes?  Perhaps we also don’t talk about sin because it shouldn’t always be our focal point, but to not talk about it at all is to all of our detriment.  We cannot NOT talk about sin.  Secondly, there are consequences to sin even after confession, redemption and reconciliation.  Similarly to the long term effects on the body when someone smokes or drinks in excess for long periods of their lives – it eventually catches up to them.  Sin does the same thing.  We cannot stay silent on sin…because if we love our Church and the people in it, we must lovingly (emphasis on LOVINGLY) talk about the effects of sin, because assuredly it is very real as are the effects.

    These are just 5 things about faith no one talks about…I know that there are more, but this is just a primer to that conversation.  What should we also talk more about?  Like and comment below to join the conversation!  Tell us what YOU think!  Together we can ponder these things and hopefully better our lives!

Salvation Army Tragedy, Martyrdom & Faith

http://m.cleveland19.com/story/36981684/crime-spree-murder-victim-was-wearing-salvation-army-uniform

Many have seen the news story (referenced above in the link) about the tragic loss of Salvation Army soldier Jared Plesec.  I cannot put to words the deep sadness many have felt because of this seemingly random act of violence.   There is so much to say about that, but I want to focus in on Jared.  He didn’t know that his life was going to have such an abrupt and violent end.  He had no clue that he just so happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time…instead, from all accounts, he felt God’s appointment where ever he went.  He faithfully wore his uniform, but that isn’t what has distinguished him and endeared him to many around the world.  Anyone can wear a uniform, that doesn’t change hearts and minds.  Some have worn the uniform and have lived contrary to the articles of war that are signed upon becoming a soldier.  Yet, from what everyone has said of Jared, and what has been shared on social media sites, to Jared the uniform was an extension of his faith in Christ.  He was known to call up people who had been missing from the corps.  Young people looked up to Jared.  He wore his uniform proudly and at the time of his death, he was clutching his bible.  This, my friends, was a true soldier of God.  I seriously doubt that Jared was perfect, we all have our flaws, but I know the kind of legacy he has left for the ones who knew him.

I mourn for his friends and family, and I mourn with the Cleveland Temple Corps where he soldiered.   Jared has been promoted to glory at such a young age and I can’t but help wonder what future impacts he might have had if this tragic act of violence had never happened.

Can we start a campaign to IHQ to posthumously honor Jared with the Order of the Founder Award?  I think it rather fitting, don’t you?

2 Things
I don’t wish to whittle this down to simply two things today, and thereby minimize the life of Jared in anyway.  He has greatly impacted my life and I never met this young man…but I hope to one day in Eternity.

1) Consistency of Faith
Jared wasn’t just a Christian when he put his uniform on, he was a Christian (from all accounts) in every facet of his life.   Can we say the same thing today of ourselves?  The uniform doesn’t make us Christ-followers, it is merely another outward evidence of the inward change.  What does make us Christ-followers is the daily, even moment by moment commitment to Him regardless of the circumstances around us (good or bad).
How consistent in our faith?

2)  Persistence of Faith
Accounts of Jared’s life has left us with the deep impression of his persistent faith towards those around him.  He was an encourager and would frequently call those who were absent from the corps.  He kept his faith at the forefront of his life anyone to witness.  Many of us reading of his life, have witnessed a man persistently seeking after Christ…and I wonder if this can be said of us as well?  I ask this question first to myself and all others who wish to do a personal inventory of their lives.

Dear Jared,
I never met you, but over the course of the last few days, I feel like you were (and still are) my brother in Christ!  Thank you for your witness to many, many people – both while alive and in the instance of your tragic death.  We mourn for what could have been…but we also celebrate your testimony in life, and one day we shall all meet together in Heaven to sing Christ’s praises.  Well done, good and faithful servant!  We shall one day meet!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Scott E. Strissel,
Captain.

Dear Salvation Army: Emergency Disaster Services – Touching Lives, Not Networks.

I have been watching and praying for my fellow Officers and Soldiers who have served and are currently serving on Emergency Disaster Services teams in Texas and Florida.
Some of the devastation is heartbreaking as many families have lost everything.  Many organizations have been on site since day 1…including The Salvation Army.   EDS2

Confession:
I have to confess something, I would often get upset when other relief organizations would get all of the press time on television networks.  I would grow weary of the lack of reporting of all of the good things my fellow Soldiers, Officers and volunteers of The Salvation Army were doing on the ground. It seemed that there were many media hogs seizing every minute of television and radio time but as soon as the cameras were gone…so were they.  On behalf of the movement I faithfully serve, I felt gypped.

I expressed this salty opinion to one of my corps members, I was in a cantankerous mood. This corps member is a far wiser person than I will ever be.  He had perspective and with calm, sage advice said, “You know, it has never been about how much press time we get…we aren’t there for the applause or public acclaim, we’re there to serve the hurting as best as we can as we rely on the Lord to guide us.”  With one fell swoop, he cut me off at the knees – which was a good thing.  He brought a great sense of perspective to my heart.  There I was, getting so upset in the halls of public opinion while completely forgetting the primary purpose for our ‘Army’ existing in those places of disaster – to faithfully serve others with the love and grace of the Lord – regardless if it was seem through the lenses of some camera.   prayer

I was reminded of a passage of scripture, and I don’t use this to get preachy or to sound judgmental, but rather to put some sobering perspective back into my heart and perhaps others who might be struggling with this as well:  “….Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.”  (Matthew 6:1,2)

-If we serve because we want to be seen, we have gotten it all wrong…
-If we serve because it brings fame to any organization, we have gotten it all wrong…
-If we serve because it makes us look good, we have gotten it all wrong…
…and we will have already received our reward, if so then God help us!

Instead, may our service, especially those unseen by the world around us, bring glory to God!  It should never be about our air time or the many external fund raisers on our behalf – The Lord will provide – be faithful in this!  Our consistency in serving Him is paramount to all of these things.  We are called to offer compassion, care, love, hope…with all of those things, who has time to worry about anything else?

Pray!!
Please pray for the many hands and feet of God currently serving in Texas and in Florida!  Continue to pray for this hurricane season…and the upcoming storms.  Don’t forget the Emergency Disaster Service personnel in the Western Territory either!  Prayer is not a last resort, but a means to continue to bring the needs of many before the Lord continuously!

Something more to Ponder…To God be the glory!!

Messy Church – Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors…

Joseph  – Messy Church

This time our corps (church) did a messy church on the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.  The major theme was God providing and taking what was meant for evil and turning it into something good.  The following stations were used to illustration and reinforce the story as the station leader asked questions and prodded the participants to discuss and think about particular segments of Joseph’s life.  

Station 1:  Dream Pictures (10 Minutes) dreams
(Need:  cotton swabs, card paper, markers, colored film paper.)
Create a dream on paper with the materials at the table.
Talk about:  Talk about dreams, how God can speak to people through dreams, and how most of us have a dream for our lives.  We might find that as we follow our dream, God has very different plans for us that are even better than our dreams.

Questions:
Do you like to sleep in complete darkness or do you sleep with a night light or lamp?
What kind of dreams do you have?
Do you think that God can still speak to us in our dreams or is it just last night’s pizza?

Scripture – Genesis 37:5-8
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Ask:  Does it sound like Joseph’s brothers appreciated his dream?
Why do you think they were upset with Joseph?
Do you get along with you family and brother/sister(s)?
Close:
As we finish this station today remember that it is good to dream big dreams in life and that God wants to help you along the way.  God also wants to be there with you each step of the way!

coatStation 2:  Big Colored Coat (10 Minutes)
(Need:  outline of coat, colored crepe/tissue paper paper, glue)

prepare in advance strips of colored paper for the participants to organize onto their coat.  Emphasize the need to make it as beautiful as possible.

Talk About:
Talk about the beautiful coat that Jacob gave to Joseph as a present.  Ask everyone what their favorite piece of clothing is at the moment:  favorite shoes, shirt, jeans, jacket and why.

Scripture Genesis 37:3 – “Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.”

Questions:
Why did Jacob give Joseph the colorful coat?
Who are the people in your life that love you?  Name them.
How can we show love to others like Jacob showed love to his son Joseph?

Station 3  Gift Box Decoration (10 Minutes) boxes
(Need:  Small gift boxes, scraps of colorful material or wrapping paper, wrapped candies/chocolates)

Directions:  decorate small gift boxes using the colorful materials and wrapping paper.  Use a heart or cross design while using the materials as a symbol of love.  Select and place a wrapped candy/chocolate inside the decorated box.  The idea behind the box is to give the box and the candy away to someone to show how much you care for them.

Talk About:
Talk about presents from friends or members of your family and how you might want to give them a present just because you love them so much.
Ask:  What’s the best present you’ve ever been given?
What made it the best present?
Who gave you that present?

Scripture:  2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
What do you think is the writer meant when he said “this gift”?  Who do you think this gift is about?  Do you know that God loves you so very much that He sent Jesus to die for your sins?  We are going to close our time at this station with a quick word of prayer thanking God for giving us this wonderful gift of Salvation through Jesus.  (Pray)

Lastly say, “After Church today, or during this week, pray about who you should give this gift to.  Perhaps it will help cheer someone up, or used as a way to help heal a relationship or friendship that you have.  Pray about it and then give this little gift to someone who you feel needs it.

Station 4 Thumbprint People (10 Minutes)
(Need: Poster paint in different colors, sheets of paper, markers)
painttheone
Directions:  Make 12 thumbprints with poster paint.  When they’re dry, decorate them with markers, drawing eyes, mouths, beards, and clothes to be Joseph and his 11 brothers.

Talk About:
Talk about the way very different people make up a family and how hard it can be to live together when you feel very different from each other.  Talk about ways of getting along that you have found helpful.

Read Scripture as participants are decorating: Genesis 37:18-28 18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. 24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.[c] 27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

Ask:  Why do you think his brothers hated Joseph so much?
What was the name of the brother who stopped the other brothers from killing Joseph?
How do you get along with your siblings?  What are some ways that you can make peace when a fight breaks out?

Station 5: False Beards  (10 Minutes) beards
(Need: Scraps of dark brown, black fabric, scissors, dark wool and a darning needle –if needed- and thread)

Using your selection of fabric cut out a triangle big enough to fit on the chin as a beard.  Cut a mouth hole so that it comprises a moustache and beard.  Using the threat poke a hole on either side of the beard in order to tie it around the back of your head.  Wear your beard with pride!

Talk about:
Talk about the “hairy Ishmaelites”  who took Joseph off to Egypt and sold him as a slave:
Scripture:  Genesis 37:25-28
25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

beard3

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.  27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed. 28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
beard2
Questions:
What do you think it was like for Joseph being sold into slavery?
What do you think those hairy Ishmaelites were like?
Do you think Joseph was afraid to be away from home?
Do you think God was with Joseph even when we was a prisoner and slave?
 

 

Celebration: (back to Chapel or Fellowship Room)
Need:  Artwork and colorful mosaics, Egypt pics…all decorations and songs link to the activities  of the stations.

We sang these songs for the celebration/closing:
Just a closer walk with Thee, Jehovah Jireh.

Say:  
Joseph had 11 brothers.  Maybe you sometimes quarrel with your brother or sister.  Well, Joseph and his brothers often quarreled, partly because Joseph’s brothers were jealous of the beautiful coat that their Dad, Jacob had given to Joseph.

Bring a bright coat or robe out of a box

Also, Joseph had dreams they didn’t like.  For example, he dreamed the sun and moon and 11 stars were bowing down to him.  His brothers thought he was showing off.  So the brothers plotted to kill Joseph.  They threw him down a dry well, but then instead of killing him, they decided to sell him into slavery when a caravan of slavers traveled by.  To cover up their crime, they killed an animal and poured its blood onto Joseph’s beautiful colored coat and told their father Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

Bring out a small knife from the box…
In Egypt, Joseph was sold as a slave and, although he was very hardworking, he was thrown in jail for something he didn’t do.  While he was in prison, he told some prisoners what their dreams meant, and later he told the Pharaoh what his dreams meant:  that the harvest would fail and there was going to be a famine, so Egypt would have to stock up on food.

Bring a small loaf of bread out of the box…

The famine came to the whole area – and Egypt was the only place with food, thanks to Joseph.  Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, but they didn’t recognize joseph.  What would Joseph do?  Should he get his revenge on them for being so mean all those years ago?

No!  He told them who he was and forgave them.  “Even though you meant to harm me, God made it all turn out well so that everyone would be saved, “  he said.  So they brought Jacob their father, to Egypt and God reunited them all.

Bring a picture of a smiling face out of the box…or a family photo…

God can take things that go wrong and mend them and turn them to good.  He wants to bring us together as his Christian family.  Think of someone you’ve quarreled with recently.  Let’s say sorry to God and ask him to help us forgive them and to make up.

Closing Prayer:
Lord, thank you that we are one big family of your people throughout the world and throughout history.  Help us to live as one family, loving each other through thick and thin.  Amen.

Benediction:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
*Hold out your hands expecting a present.*

And the love of God
*Put your hands on your heart*

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
*Hold hands*

Be with us all now and forever.  Amen!
*Raise hands together on the word ‘Amen’*

Adapted from the book:  Messy Church: Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centered Community.  Messy

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