Easter Memories – Childhood Recollections…

I always have fond memories of the Easter season.
Growing up in the church, I don’t recall a time when I didn’t go to church.  Many times I sat through that dreaded (at least in the eyes of a child) 3 hours of the cross Good Friday service.  I also remember not being all that fond of early Sun-rise services either.  Waking up at the crack of dawn, even before the rooster would even begin to crow…the lights would twinkle in windows down the street as some rustled about in the early dawn.  Then we would hustle to a public outdoor service of some kind where the cold wind would always bite at my nose and send me to shivering later.  But there was always the reward of the warm glow of the Sunrise when it crested the mountain at the Eastern horizon.   Perhaps, in some way, that is why Easter sun-rise service has always been special to me.  I would shiver in the cold morning air UNTIL the Sun began to shine and cast its warming rays upon us once more.  It would remind me of the state I was in before knowing Christ – that cold and lonely place.  It was a place devoid of the Son, filled with selfishness and hurt…but when Christ’s love broke into my life and I accepted His forgiveness and grace – I could feel the warmth of His love.  It almost felt as I was wrapped in His warm embrace, and all was right with the world again.

Perhaps, as I reminisce of my many visits to those cold mornings of Easter Sunday, where we would sing “Up from the grave He arose“,  I too find myself being resurrected again.  I too identify with the empty tomb, for God’s glory has warmly shone into my life.  And when the glow of the rising Sun appears again, I see the hope of eternity once more in its rising.  No, not in the Sun itself, but in the Son-rise, a Messiah conquering death, a Savior delivering me once more from my sin-sick heart.

Death cannot keep his prey—
  Jesus, my Savior!
He tore the bars away—
  Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
  Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Something more to Ponder.
What are you Easter memories?  Comment below and let the conversation continue!

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

4 Reasons The Salvation Army Is Losing Millennials

 

I’ve been doing some research on Millennials…I happen to have two living in my home.
More and more I see young people reaching a certain age in our corps, perhaps around 16 – 18 and then they simply vanish from our doors.  They might reappear from time to time, but they never stay.  It saddens me to see The Salvation Army (and most North American denominations) experience this.  I felt led to explore this topic, not with any agenda other than trying to understand why we are losing such an important generation…a generation that will one day run our Army.  What I found was alarming, and I simply want to transplant some of these findings on The Salvation Army in the hopes that we can recognize and perhaps help stave the exodus of an entire generation.  I also want to firmly acknowledge that not every Millennial falls into these category, but a majority of those who leave our corps and its ministries perhaps might have the following reasons for doing so, (whether true or assumed truth by the one doing the leaving).  hello

4 Reasons The Salvation Army Is Losing Millennials: 

  1.  “God Can Be Found Elsewhere”
    GodIn a 2015 Barna study, nearly 39% of Millennials believed that God could be found elsewhere and one did not have to attend church in order to find Him.  This is troubling in that our Corps ought to be a place where God is very real and present.  Is He in your corps?  How can we impress upon our young people that God might not be tied specifically to our corps halls but to sacrificial living?  Perhaps it has to begin by living that belief out.  I wish to applaud those in my life who became that example for me.  Many wonderful officers and soldiers displayed their holy living through their kindness, grace and love.  Perhaps we need less rhetoric and cliche mottos and more evidence of belief in those mottos being poured out into our lives and spilling itself out into our communities.  No, God can certainly be found elsewhere, but is He evident in us?
  2. Millennials Can Spot Fakes fake
    We’ve all seen the televangelist on TV with the gleaming porcelin teeth and the empty messages of prosperity and joy without ever mentioning godly principles, character and sin.  There is a deep longing amongst millennials for the return of the sacred to our churches and corps.  The message of wearing a uniform as our only testimony to an inward change is not enough, we must enact that change and live it out.  This is of course true for every generation, and the necessity for Holiness in our movement is vital for all.  Thus, when we talk a big game but nothing ever materializes or happens millennials will spot the phoniness and run for the exits.  We can dress the part, we can say all the “hallelujahs” and “fire a volleys” until we are blue in the face, but if none of it translates into Holy living, you can bet that sort of fakery will be seen and once seen very hard to recover from.

    What Millennials want in its officers and soldiers are people who are real, people who are genuine.  They want to see real people struggling with real stuff and not hiding or pretending everything is fine.  This is extremely vulnerable for both sides:  to admit that though we live out holiness we still encounter hardships, doubt and fear.  Soldiers, be real…don’t put on masks, don’t lie when things are not going well.  Live Holiness out even when the ugliness of life can be seen.

  3. Hypocrites In Uniforms
    hypoCoupled with spotting fakes, Millennials are repulsed by hypocrites who preach one thing but live another way.  The “do as I say, not as I do” motto needs to die not only in the Church but in our Army as well.  If it exists, stamp it out, address it, don’t let it fester and lead to the spiritual death of your corps body.  I have heard of corps (years ago) who had bandsmen who would dress up in their uniforms just to perform in the band and as soon as their part in the service was complete they would rush out the back door and leave – what kind of witness is that to our young people?  Millennials have also seen moral failures in society, and perhaps even in the Salvation Army.  Divorce rates have been on the rise and half of millennials will be coming from either one parent households or having split their time in two homes.  Some have witnessed the effects of moral failure first hand in family members and most deeply desire to change that narrative in their own lives.

    Other instances could involve Officers and soldiers forming intentional or unintentional private/exclusive groups in the corps, and fail to include others seeking fellowship.  Perhaps some have experienced mean people in the pews of our corps and wondered to themselves “is this what The Salvation Army is all about?”

    I will guarantee that #3 rubs many of us the wrong way – good, because it ought to.  We should never be perceived as hypocrites in uniform.  If we aren’t inclusive of people from all walks of life, then we really have no place being an army of Salvation.  All are welcome into our services in order to experience the love of God.

    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. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”  Matthew 6:1-5

  4. Lack of Ownership passing the baton
    Millennials want to belong to something great.
    They believe in charity, giving and helping people in need.  There is a real passion to serve within causes that matter and make a difference.  When we emphasize world services – they want to contribute and help out in tangible ways.  When we do not allow them to participate because they are young, do “don’t know anything” we are essentially closing the doors to their future in the Army.  Millennials want to have an invested interest in the Army – but how can we empower them and raise they up to lead?  There needs to come a point, and perhaps in some places this is already happening , that we not only invest in the younger generations as an Army, but we allow them to take leadership positions in our corps and relinquish our grips on some roles of authority and allow them to help.  When we grant a genuine investment piece for our youth, they will have a sense of belonging and a deeper desire to serve and to be use – because they will be making  difference.

    These are just four reasons the Salvation Army is losing millennials.  I fully acknowledge that churches in other denominations are facing the same crisis.  But for just a moment, let me ask you – What is the Army doing to ensure the next generation doesn’t flee its ranks?  What can be done?   More importantly, what are YOU doing?  Because our Army is only as strong as its members are proactively engaged in its mission.

    We don’t need to spruce up our worship bands, or make sure we have attractive looking corps or programs, what Millennials (and non-millennials) are looking for is a warm, inviting place to belong – is YOUR Corps that place?

    Something more for our Army to ponder today.
    For more reading on this topic check out these links:
    2015 Barna Study:  “What Millennials Want When They Visit Church

    5 Things Millennials Wish Church Would Be

     

    4 Things Millennials Wish the Church Would Be

    How Does the Church Reach Millennials? Hint: It’s Not Flashing Lights or Rock Band Worship

    *Disclaimer:  The Views and Opinions of the writer of this blog are not necessarily the views and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.” 

The Passion of The Christ (by Colonel Dennis Strissel)

The title of our devotional today bears a similar title of the 2004 Mel Gibson Biblical drama of the final 12 hours of Christ’s life, through the crucifixion with a brief glimpse of the resurrection. You’ll recall it was very controversial for its brutal description of the crucifixion scenes and brave for filming the entire film in Aramaic at the same time. The film grossed over $612 Million during its release and received three academy award nominations. And we’re still talking about it today as probably one of the best depictions of this day in history.

It never ceases to amaze me, and I have said this before and will probably say it many more times before the Lord calls me home, we, as the church, continue to recreate these significant days in our church history. In fact millions of Christians already have retraced the steps of the Via Delarosa this day, both in Jerusalem and in various other parts of the world. It is sad to say but there probably some Christians who have followed the cross today and have lost their lives for doing so. via

So that I do not assume too much, when using the term passion – I am talking about the extreme suffering, originally referred to as the last agonies of Christ. This is the supreme act of Agape’ love from God to mankind.

Isa 53:4-6

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

The key thought in Isaiah’s prophetic word, (Isaiah 53:4-6), deals with the sweet exchange – Our weakness/He carried – our sorrows/that weighed him down –He is pierced/for our rebellion –He is crushed/for our sins – He is beaten/so we could be whole – He is whipped/so we can be healed.

So for the few minutes that I have your attention, I challenge you to consider two things during this dark moment in our church history…

  1. LET’S TRY TO UNDERSTAND CHRIST’S SUFFERINGsuffer

William Barclay writes about the common criminal customs amongst the Roman government: “It was custom that he, the criminal, should carry the cross beam of his own cross; the other part was already waiting for him at the place designated for crucifixion. The charge for which he was being executed was written on a board; it was either hung around his own neck or carried by an officer in front of the procession, and was later affixed to the cross itself. The criminal was led to the scene of the crucifixion as long a route as possible, so that as many as possible might see him, and take warning from the grim sight.”

We know, from reading the passion story, that the procession to the cross only happened after three illegal trials, with Christ being subjected to insults and allegations, all while refusing to defend himself. He was passed from soldier to soldier, humiliated, stripped, beaten, spat upon and new being dragged down the main street of Jerusalem.

This treatment of Christ did not fit into the neat concept, dream and hope of the majority of Jews when it came to the coming of the great Divine, The Messiah.

I loved the picture that Matthew and Luke paint for us in their narrative of the Triumphal Entry. Can you imagine the likes of Judas or Simon the Zealot mumbling under their breath…? “The colt of a donkey? Never! Messiah should be galloping into the city of God and Kings on the back of a Stallion, signifying his coming as the triumphant victor.” But that is not the way he came, which warns us of our own preconceived ideas of who Christ is and what his desired outcome should be.

See him struggle under the weight of the cross/beam, falling to his knees, looking up into the face of crowds of people, some of whom are compassionate, while others are shouting condemnation. Hear, if you can, one Simon of Cyrene being conscripted into service by the harsh voice of the Roman soldier in Luke 23:26.

churchThere is a series of very beautiful pictures in the cathedral at Antwerp, which represent Christ hearing His cross from the Praetorian to Calvary. These pictures embody the popular idea of Christ’s weakness and exhaustion. In one He stands calm and erect, in another He is bending under the weight of the cross, and in another He has fallen beneath the load that was laid upon Him. It is at this stage of the proceedings that Simon, who is passing by, is arrested, and compelled to bear the cross after Christ.

I suspect Simon had no idea what he was about to be called on to do…likewise, bearing the cross of Christ today could come out of surprise. Please be aware that all you may endure in this life should not necessarily be considered as bearing the cross of Christ. Many of the issues we face may be as a result of our own poor, selfish decision making and does not deserve the high honor of bearing Christ’s cross. Bearing His cross brings him glory and honor to the church. Living with the consequence of our own sin does not. So be careful of misusing the noble term of “Cross-Bearer.”

We need no commentary to explain the suffering of Christ, Lamb of God, We simply paint the background and that is descriptive enough.

  1. Vernon McGee would say, “The pain will attract the people.”

Church history records the following regarding Clovis King of the Gaul’s from 481 – 511, “When Clovis Leader of the Franks, was told about the crucifixion of Christ. He leaped to his feet, drew his sword and exclaimed, ‘If I had only been there with my Franks.” But Jesus didn’t need the Gaul Army or any army for that matter. As the old song says, “He could have called ten thousand Angels to destroy the world and set him free, He could have called ten thousand Angels, but he died alone for you and me.”

crossAs he hung on the cross, the voyeurs standing watch challenged Jesus to show them his power. Another way we might put it is, “we would just believe if you would just show us you can Houdini your way off that cross.” Listen to them using the glory of Christ to mock him…

Matt 27:39-44

39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. 40 “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!”41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

William Booth is recorded as saying, “It is precisely because he would not come down that we believe in him.”

No amount of descriptive words will ever do justice in describing the horrible humiliation and suffering our Savior endured for you and me.

O sacred head once wounded,
With grief and pain weighed down,
How scornfully surrounded
With thorns, thine only crown!
How pale art thou with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!
Paulus Gerhardt

 

  1. LET’S TRY TO COMPREHEND GOD’S SUBSTITUTION PLAN

I don’t know about you, but I get chills up and down my spine when I see or read about those times when the team, as they were, could not win the prize or accomplish the goal. The coach then calls on the one person, the person that no one expects to accomplish the seemingly impossible. When the substitute enters the arena and accomplishes what seemed all but lost, we rise to our feet and stretch out our arms and cheer for all we, and they, are worth. The substitute is worthy of the team’s acknowledgement and praise.

John Stott, author and theologian writes: “The concept of substitution lies at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.”

We see the picture of Christ, the substitute, implied and explicit, all the way through Scriptures.lamb

  • We see an act of redemptive bloodshed in Genesis 3:21, as an animal sacrifices its life and coat to cover the nakedness of mankind.

 

  • We are witnesses to the attempted sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, along with the surprise substitution that arrives through a ram caught in the thickets (Gen. 22:13).

 

  • In Exodus 12:21 we note the instruction of the preparation of a Passover lamb whose shed blood will serve as an act of Salvation for God’s chosen. Interesting that the substitute is always a willing participant in the Divine transaction.

 

  • As one moves to the New Testament we hear John the Baptizer declare upon seeing Jesus, his cousin, coming to be baptized, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

 

  • The transformation of Peter should amaze us, it does me. You hardly recognize the impulsive, blustering Peter at the end of his life compared to his first baby-steps with Jesus. That’s the way it should be in all our lives I suspect. Listen to the Holy Spirit-filled wisdom of the more mature Peter helping us understand that God’s plan of substitution was no accident and that it all began way before the creation of the world.

1 Peter 1:18-21

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. 21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

And this brings us back to our text from Isaiah 53, verse 7 & 8; perhaps one of the most descriptive portions that help us note God’s plan for this substitute for your sin and mine.

What we deserve is death but we need not experience it all because of God’s amazing grace.

Hear Isaiah’s voice clearly state…

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 8 Unjustly condemned, he was led away.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

…led away to die in our place. God went out of his way to redeem mankind by the substitution of his only begotten.

Rom 4:25

25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

A story is told about a farmer named Blake who was drafted as a soldier during the War Between the States. He was deeply troubled about leaving his family because his wife had died and there would be no one to support and take care of his children in his absence. The day before he was to leave for the army, his neighbor Charlie Durham came to visit him. “Blake,” he said, “I’ve been thinking. You’re needed here at home, so I’ve decided to go in your place.” The farmer was so overwhelmed that for a few moments he was speechless. The offer seemed too good to be true. He grasped the hand of the young man and praised God for this one who was willing to go as his substitute. Sadly, Charlie was shot and killed in the first battle. When the farmer heard the bad news, he immediately saddled his horse and rode out to the battlefield. He found the body of his friend and arranged to have it buried in the churchyard near the spot where they had often stopped to talk after the services. On a piece of marble he carved the inscription with his own hands. It was roughly done, but with every blow of the hammer on the chisel, tears fell from his eyes. He placed the marker on the grave of his devoted substitute. Many villagers wept as they read the brief but touching inscription: He died for me.

Isaiah finishes his prophetic word this way…died

Isa 53:10-11

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted                                                             righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

The outcome of his Suffering and Substitution allows you and me the privilege of being His descendant and being counted as righteous. Please, do not let His death be in vain…

25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Rom 3:25-26

Holy Bible, New Living Translation

Dear Salvation Army, Answering The Call

Here is the principle – adapt your measures to the necessity of the people to whom you minister. You are to take the Gospel to them in such modes and circumstances as will gain for it from them a hearing.” –Catherine Boothcatherine

How far do we go in answering the call for help?
Are we truly listening?
All around our communities, there are hurting people.
Regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances, our mission is to help, and in so doing, we can open the door to offering spiritual aide as well.  But how far will we go?  Do we still adapt our measures to the extreme of the need of people?

A Snoozing Army ?
snoozeAre we alert to the ever present need to adapt to our changing communities?
Are we awake?  Or are we happily slumbering in an Army of bygone eras and rusting instruments in a chapel only marginally attended?  This may sound harsh, but perhaps we have been caught snoozing.  In our attempts to play “Church” which we are not, or more than – we have forgotten this principle plainly outlined by our Co-founder Catherine Booth.  While we have been polishing our awards and photographs of yesteryear, we have lost sight of the present dangers ruling our streets and pulling the helpless into the very pit of hell, lined with addictions, abuse, pornography, apathy, hatred, human slavery, and all kinds of other horrors.  Is this you?  Is this me?  I pray it is not.  I pray if it is, we would wake up and recognize the reasons we may be dying are directly related to our missing vision and mission.  Our origin story.  Our principle for being an Army in the first place.  To go for souls and go for the worst.  To combat the forces of evil that still ravage our communities, and do so without fear of reprisals and attacks of the enemy.

I fear we have slipped because we have failed to adapt.  adapt
I fear we have stopped being revolutionary in our methods to reach the lost.
Perhaps we have grown too comfortable in our offices and in our perceived places of power and authority.  Perhaps we have grown lax and lost some of our vigilant passion.  If we are to continue winning souls for the kingdom, we won’t find them banging on our doors to be let into our Sunday services – No!  We must adopt other means to seek souls out.  William and Catherine Booth didn’t start the Christian mission in a pristine church ornately decorated with stained glass, NO!  They went to the Pub, they went where no other church would go.  Are we as bold as they were?  Can we, perhaps, pray for such a boldness in our Army today?  Oh Lord, grant us the courage to go where you send us, and the conviction to remain steadfast despite the intimidation of the evil one.  For I fear that currently the evil one is perfectly happy with our lack of zeal in the streets, as we usher ourselves away quietly in our corps halls to worship and nothing more.

No, a new revolution must be waged!  
soldierA new passion for souls must be prayed for, not just in our hearts but in every soldier’s heart.  This isn’t just an army that preserves a heritage of the yesteryear, this is an army that carves out its destiny in the present and future through faithfulness and reliance on the Holy Spirit!  We must recognize this need!  We must reorganize, realign, re-imagine and act upon this mission of ours!  We are not an army to sit on our backsides and do nothing!  No! We MUST be a forward moving army, who has accepted and adapted to this modern spiritual war we are in.  We cannot capitulate, grow soft and comfortable – to do so will bring about our fall, and someone else will take our place!  I say we still have a war to wage!  I say we support our Officers not just in prayer but action.  I say we support our Soldiers not just in flowery words on Sunday mornings behind the pulpit but with deep compassion, love, truth and by God’s authority.  When we are united as one Army, we are so much more effective than just solitary entities running around in the streets trying to do good.

Are we ready?
Let’s Go!
Let’s fight to the very end!
Let’s continue to wage this war – and through God’s power, we will prevail in this generation…and the next!!!

Questions to ponder: ponder
What can we do that is revolutionary to reach our community?
Are there “out of the box” methods we have yet to employ?
What is holding us back from employing them?
How much prayer to you devote to your mission and your community?
Are there burdens or unaddressed issues in your corps that need tending so that you can unite and move out into the streets?

I know it is easier said than done.
I know we all have so much to do.
I realize there are programs to “maintain”…but can we do ONE thing that impacts new lives for Christ?  Can we focus on individuals, not numbers?  Can we develop connections with people, not statistical figures?  Perhaps set a goal with your corps council or your local officers…or even just with yourself – to make one impactful relationship in the next three months.  Pray about who that will be.  Ask the Lord to lead you to that one person…and watch out!  When we are alert and aware of our surroundings, those people God places in our path will not be too hard to find.

Are you ready to answer that call?!

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

“The Spear” by Jim Gallop

Below is a short skit written and presented by a friend of mine,  Major Jim Gallop.
Read, consider, ponder, and revel in Christ’s amazing love for us!

_______________________________________________________________

THE SPEAR

(Scene opens with Roman guard, gazing at the end of his spear in stunned disbelief. He is standing, centre stage, quarter turn right as play begins. Spear is held to display its end before the audience)

Soldier:
My most useful tool….my best friend…..my help in times of trouble….my spear. That is what they told me when I chose to become a soldier……always be aware of the power of your spear.
And, oh, I was aware….how I learned to accurately throw you in battle, how I clinged to you as we defended our legion against Jewish zealots, bent on their preposterous notion that they could defeat the Roman army. We crushed them with our spears, our swords, our shields, and our might.
Our army was one of the mightiest ever seen! Men from all over Italy, armed and always ready for battle! The Roman empire had hold on vast areas of land…..the Meditteranean, North Africa, Europe, Syria, the middle east….all through the power of our weaponry.
I…..well, I was sent to this squalid refuse of a place known as Jerusalem. My orders were to protect Roman interests. “Squash any rebellion against our authority”, they told me, “Maintain control of the people, make them know that Rome still has power here”…….power.

So yes, I knew the kind of bone-crushing power that these weapons held…..but now, I wonder…and, I am confused. You see, they had me stand by to witness someone called Jesus of Nazareth executed. They nailed him to a cross on that hill behind me to make an example of him. They called this Jesus ‘king of the Jews’ to mock him. He was hung on that cross for 3 hours and I watched, oh I watched…..3 hours of excruciating pain for this man, the nails digging into his flesh, the whip marks exposing gashes on his skin, the crown of thorns they had battered down onto his head, making fresh blood drip onto his face. He was in incredible agony, and believe me I have seen agony before….but this sort of agony was not normal. This agony he had, well, it was actually a sorrow….a sorrow for those who were executing him. He cried out to His God saying “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”, He hung there, and did not yell at people for spitting at him, or for tormenting him…he said “father, forgive them.”

After he died, I was told by my commander to thrust this spear into his side to make sure He was dead. I-I hesitated at first, but then as I had always been taught to do, I followed the command. As I thrust this spear into him, blood came out, then water. Blood and water came gushing out of Jesus’ side! It was, dare I say it! It was as if this spear, covered in blood was being cleansed by Jesus on the cross. This spear which was used to keep order and discipline…this spear which was used to make others bow to it….this spear was being cleansed by Jesus, who had called on His God to forgive us. This….this spear (lay down the spear….fade to black)

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Thank you Major Gallop for allowing me to share this today!
Something more to ponder today!

What Happened on Easter Saturday?

Here’s a pondering for you:
What happened on Easter Sunday?
Where were the disciples? -Probably hiding.
What was Pilot doing?
What was Mary doing?  – In Mourning no doubt.
What of the women disciples?  -Most likely preparing to visit the tomb the following day.
It was Sabbath after all.

What of the soldiers who stood at the foot of the cross?  Where were they now?
The one that is hardest to answer, because none of us has seen the spiritual realm – Where was Jesus?  What did it take to come back?  What were the reactions of the Angels and that of the Fallen Angels, and they of Satan himself?

What exactly happened on this day?
Some might say, “well it isn’t for us to know.”
I might contend that this entire salvation story is because of us – as people fallen.
I just wonder if Jesus went to hell, what took place there?
I would love to be the proverbial fly on the wall during that encounter.

angelsWe always talk about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and that of His wondrous resurrection, but perhaps the most amazing feat in this whole story of love and redemption is what took place beyond the veil.  Beyond our human, mortal vision.  How Jesus vanquish death, conquered sin, and, though the final battle hasn’t happened yet, ultimately beat the fallen angels – they never stood a chance as Creator took back what was rightfully His to give and take away.

What happened on Saturday?
Ah, don’t underestimate Saturday.
For though we see Sunday as victory, as well we should,  on Saturday (Jewish Sabbath) we ought to consider and contemplate that beyond the veil Jesus standing in victory within the spiritual realm as well.

Something more to ponder today!
Don’t you ever wonder too?

Looking At The Cross

I’m not here to proselytize,
no, we will never be moved from our positions and convictions by mere words.
9 times out of 10 most will never be “saved” by signs on billboards saying “Jesus Saves”
or by a “Preacher” on a soapbox with a bullhorn.
No, none of these things seem to penetrate the heart.
None of these things contributes to the glory of God…
it only adds to the noise.

pathIt’s a slow walk…
This path towards the cross.
The place where Jesus was killed was literally called the place of the skull because it looked like a skull cap.
It was never pretty.
Death. Is. Not. Pretty.
Even when the Son of God faced death…it was not pretty.

Death is brutal. death
Death has its claws into the sides of humanity and many learn to fear it.
Even Jesus prayed for the “cup to be taken from Him” while in the garden of Gethsemane, yet He was still faithful and He still went through with it.

BloodBlood was spilled.
People spat in His face.
A crown of thorns was forced upon Jesus’ head…
more blood was spilled.
The path that Jesus walked is called the ‘Via Dolorosa’ which means “the way of suffering” or “the way of sorrow”.
No, this was not, by its own a rite, a “glorious” day…and yet we look at the cross,
we explore His gruesome execution,
we peal back the “polished” veneer of the cross’ description,
and we discover just how much our Father in Heaven desires to rescue and redeem us from our sin tattered lives.

We linger here…
we must not overlook its importance and its horror.cross1
Divine carnage, blood, suffering, pain.
We ought not turn our eyes away too quickly in order to get to the “good stuff”… just yet.

Divine love was broken and spilled out for us.
His blood became our atonement.
His sacrifice our salvation.
His willingness our redemption.
Perhaps THIS, above all else, speaks louder than any of our “big” words could.
Perhaps THIS, the mark of suffering could capture the hardened heart.
nailsPerhaps THIS, is where healing can take place…
if only Christians would get this.
if only we would live this.
if only we would “take our crosses” (no really) and selflessly follow Him.
I’m not being preachy here,
I’m listening to the groaning of my own heart
and this truth rings out in me.

So I look at the cross…cross2                                                                              for a little bit longer.

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