Dear Salvation Army – The Pathway Of Duty Is Agony Sometimes!

It is not our Salvation that keeps us Holy.  It is but a component of this saving grace.  It isn’t our intellect that saves us either.  It is the work of Christ and the continuing fellowship of the Holy Spirit within us.  We are but instruments of His peace, His love and His encouragement.

wounded3Times of Trial And Wounding:
There will be times when we are accused, slandered and wounded while serving Christ.  I am not saying that we look for the opportunities to be persecuted or wounded, but they will indeed come our way if we are living out kingdom priorities as kingdom people!

There will be some who will stand in our way.
There will be some who will betray us along the pathway of duty.
There will be some who will laugh when we face out trials and wounds.
Some, even unknowingly, are ambassadors of hell as they entertain and execute malicious attacks on those who are faithful.

I am not saying we are perfect by any means.
We are all faulty, we are all in need of a daily washing of God’s grace upon us.  Yet, if we choose to walk this narrow path and are led by the Holy Spirit, we will face opposition, persecution and wounds along the way.  It is inevitable.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

I’m sorry, what was that?
Pure Joy?  In the midst of trials of many kind?
That doesn’t sound like a joyful or fun opportunity does it?

Yet pain comes to us.
Faith produces greater faith and reliance on God, but the side-effect in this “growth process” (for lack of a better term)  is that we will experience discomfort, trials and hurt along the way.

No Pain, No Gain…no-pain-no-gain
I’m not a glutton for punishment, really I’m not…but I do know that there is a desired outcome to this “faith” thing.  We wish to be more like Christ is every way!   Ephesians 5:1-2 says, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as afragrant aroma” (NASB)

Becoming an imitator of God will take a journey through pain and suffering.  Why?  Because our fallen world won’t allow it to happen.  Because our fallen, old sinful selves and habitual wanderings will trip us up.  Because imitating God and becoming like His son Jesus will take immense sacrifice…sometimes more sacrifice than most of us realize at the beginning of the journey.

We will suffer at the hands of others.
We will suffer at the hands of ourselves at times.
We will experience discomfort and even pain at the lengths in with we are called to sacrifice!

Without pain we will not gain our freedom within His holiness!
It sounds sadistic doesn’t it?
It’s not.  It simply is.

walking-aloneYour Path Right Now…
How is the pathway of duty right now for you?
Are you experiencing any discomfort along the way?
Is it because you have had to make sacrifices?
Is it because you are at times alone in your convictions?
Is it because you have faced (or you are currently facing) persecution and ridicule from others and felt the sting of it?

We are soldiers of Christ.
We have been set apart for His holy purpose!
We will find ruts in the road.  We will find agony, bruised shins, and distressed hearts at times along this journey.

Do you need to come the well of refreshing again?
He is able to refresh and restore you!
He is able to replenish your spent reserves.
He can and will carry you when necessary.
He wants to encourage us today and to spur us onward even in the midst of persecution, suffering and the onslaught of those who would see us destroyed because of this faith.

Be bold.
Be strong.
For the Lord your God is with you today!  (Joshua 1:9)

Carry on and know you are loved, encouraged, and supported by the Father himself!

-Just something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory! 

Perspectives Day 1 – Featuring Shanais Strissel (Captain) “On the Other Side of the Veil”

“On the Other Side of the Veil”

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Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid that when you woke up it took you a few moments to realize that it actually was a dream and not reality? It takes a moment for the mist to clear, the world to turn right side up and reality to realign itself once more.

I had a dream like that last night, vivid, stingingly emotional, deep and filled with rich, longing emotions.

I had a dream in which my mother showed up, she wasn’t what the dream was about or even a large portion of it, she just showed up for a moment…

I was sitting in a small room, with a small stage and when I glanced up I saw my mother walk out on the stage and begin to speak (which if you knew my mother she would NEVER intentionally get up in front of anyone)

            It wasn’t what she said, it was how she looked that struck me like an arrow through the heart…she was wearing blue jeans, an old t-shirt, her hair kind of wild and a huge cup of coffee in clutched her hands, with a nervous smirk on her face.

             The feelings that overtook me were so intense in my dream that I couldn’t even bare to look upon her face, in my dream I got up and walked out to the hall and cried, I cried a deep longing, emotion filled, slightly angry filled moaning cry.

            Why…because even in my dreams I know that my mother is gone and I can only glimpse her through the veil of death…it was her essence in my dream that connected my heart directly to hers because this WAS who my mother was, her look, her mannerism, her spirit...

            My dream was my subconscious creating an illusionary moment of a reality that I desire- a desire that I cannot fulfill….yet.

 

For now I wait patiently on this side of the veil.

 

Death is not a fixed point and heaven isn’t some misty, foggy place “out” there in the sky somewhere…it is just across the veil and closer than we think, or at least closer than I used to think.

            When death visits close to home and comes to take someone we love, whether violently or silently, it never comes gently- it cannot- it is not its nature, because it almost always leaves behind a gaping hole of loss or uneasy questions.

            But the good news for us is that even though we must, for now, stand on one side of the veil or the other it will not always be so.  Death may separate one life from another for now but someday that veil will be torn and we will not mingle with each other in death but in a real and tangible incorruptible life…

            When Jesus hung on that cross he didn’t just save us from our sin, he saved all humanity from desolate separation…We could not face God in a corruptible state but when Jesus tore the temple veil on his death, WE can now walk through that VEIL of death and arrive before God…and just as the temple veil was torn, so will this veil that separates the corruptible flesh, what we are now, to what we will someday become.

Someday, I will see my mother, my grandmother and those who are now on the other side of the veil and someday I will see that veil fall…

For those we celebrate on this day of honor and sacrifice, for the loss of loved ones, let the pain and sorrow of that loss gently flow into healing and hope…

            Healing because we know life does not end at death

And hope because we, for now, may get glimpses through the veil of death from time to time but someday it will be gone and we will be free to live and love the way we were meant to…without the fear of separation.

So on this day, let us not celebrate loss, but let us celebrate our future hope…

Because someday I will be able to go across the room and embrace my mother because nothing will separate us anymore, and you will be able to do the same…

 

Shanais Strissel’s Blog Site: http://shanaisstrissel.wordpress.com/

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“Perspectives” Day 2 – Featuring Dennis Strissel (Colonel) “Clipping Toe Nails”

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Opinion–8-ed
(A series of eight installments)
Number four – Clipping Toe-Nails

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“Lieutenant, can you clip my toe-nails?” I couldn’t remember the toe-nail clipping class at the CFOT, so I thought the request a tad unusual. Elmer was in his mid-eighties and, for the most part, bed-ridden. He had been a long-time Salvationist and his wife still attended the church meetings without him. In fact, our very first Christmas dinner together as a married couple was with Elmer and Mabel, huddled around a very small kitchen table sharing fried rabbit together. Some things you just never forget…
“Lieutenant, can you clip my toe-nails?” I heard the words again and they kind-a woke me out of my contemplation of the request. It wasn’t a matter if I could or not…it was a matter if I wanted to or not. Do you understand my dilemma? I smiled at Elmer, grabbed his big old German foot and commenced to clipping. As I dodged the clippings flying off his toes, the thought crossed my mind that I never expected that the list of my service to the Lord would include clipping toe-nails.
For those readers still with me and not running to the bathroom sick to their tummies, my journey, and it might as well be yours too, is full of things we never thought we’d be asked to do as a service to others, as unto the Lord.
“Hey Lord, can you call me through a burning bush like you did for Moses? Can you cause a great revival of mean, God-hating people like you did for Jonah? Can I be of service to you and kill a giant like David did?”
Now those acts of service sound like great projects and worthy of a servant of the Most High God. However, I have discovered that service looks more like dishing up a plate of spaghetti for the homeless, reading a book to the first grade class, putting away tables and folding chairs for the officer or pastor, and, you guessed it, clipping the toe-nails of an elderly person. It’s not so much about the MIGHTY things as it is about the MUNDANE.
Do you remember the story Jesus told about the ruler, leaving ten servants in charge of the kingdom while he went away? He entrusted them with varying amounts of money and even though the money was small, he complemented and rewarded them upon his return.

Luke 19:15-19

15 “When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called those ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done.
16 “The first said, ‘Master, I doubled your money.’
17 “He said, ‘Good servant! Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’
18 “The second said, ‘Master, I made a fifty percent profit on your money.’
19 “He said, ‘I’m putting you in charge of five towns.’
THE MESSAGE.
They were faithful in the mundane (small job) and were found faithful and rewarded for that faithfulness. Why? Because service is not so much about making the supreme sacrifice as it is about making a personal investment in someone or something else.
Gordon B. Hinkley said “Though my work may be menial, though my contribution may be small, I can perform it with dignity and offer it with unselfishness. My talents may not be great, but I can use them to bless the lives of others…. The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts.” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/service?page=1).

Stop looking and longing for the service show-stoppers and the roof-raisers and concentrate on the everyday, little areas where you can lift the lives of the few by your personal investment in their lives, while honoring the Lord with yours…even if it means clipping toe-nails.
Dennis L.R. Strissel

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“Perspectives” Day 5 Featuring Dennis Strissel (Colonel) “Opinion8ed”

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Opinion–8-ed

By Colonel Dennis Strissel

(A series of eight installments)

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Number one – Jesus should have served fish & chips

That thought went through my mind as I stared down at a generous portion of golden brown, breaded cod and a fist-full of french-fries. This would have tasted a whole lot better than some dried-salted fish accompanied by an equally dried hunk of bread.

Don’t get me wrong; I love fish of any sort, prepared any way but most of all… I love fish & chips. Secretly, I rate the quality of fish & chips I have eaten all over the world. I guess you could call me a fish & chip critic of sorts. I have my favorites…like landing at a pub on a cool day riding in the Yorkshire Dales in northern England. The table, along with our quartet of fish & chip eaters, was seated squarely in front of a warm hearth as they served the tasteful treats. But my best F&C experience has to be from Hout Bay near Cape Town South Africa. It was a family excursion to the beach with lunch thrown in. There was just something special about those greasy, newspaper-bound, lookin-out-on-the-Atlantic Ocean, fish & chips! Perhaps, for me, it’s more about the taste connected to the current terra firma.

Its John’s version of the story that informs us that the two fish and five loaves was really a boy’s lunch (John 6:9) contributed as a result of Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to do something about the personal need of the thousands attending his impromptu hillside meeting. Its importance is measured by its inclusion in each of the Gospel’s, (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6). Since this is opinion base, then let me share one…I think too many speakers spend time expounding on the peripherals, failing to get to the point of the narrative. One could argue that the peripherals actually enhance the point but why waste the precious time you have, fifteen to twenty minutes on a Sunday morning, with waffling about the wilderness and never getting to the promise land? Here are the promise land lessons for me…

 1)    This is about servanthood – Jesus’s challenge was first to his disciples;    “Jesus replied, you give them something to eat.” (Matt 14:16), and this is echoed specifically through Mark and Luke (Mk. 6:37, Lk. 9:13) and in John it is implied in Jn. 6:5-6. Those of you who are spiritual leaders…the Spirit is speaking to you right now; “you give them something to eat.”

 Jesus’ first words about the need of the people were to the heirs of the kingdom, his disciples. Here he is pointing them to the importance of spiritual responsibility, and the challenge of every heir-apparent, to discern and meet the need of the people. In this case it was for food to sustain them while they listened and learned. One of the roles of a leader is to identify the legitimate needs of the people he/she is leading and then to meet that need. Jesus tried to do this with his disciples and in the process gets the normal reaction; “let them go in the villages and fend for themselves” or “it would take eight months of wages to feed all these people.”

  In his book, Jesus on Leadership, C. Gene Wilkes gives us a clue as to what Jesus was attempting with his chosen; “You will never become a servant leader until you first become a servant to the leader.” If the excuses sound familiar to you, it just might be because you have used the same excuses to excuse yourself from personal responsibility just like the disciples did. How are you doing in the area of servanthood? Look for ways you can meet the need of your people.

 2)   This is about satisfaction – “They all ate and were satisfied” Mark 6:42, (Matt. 14:20, Lk. 9:17, Jn. 6:12). For me, this may be the most critical need of every human being…the longing to be satisfied, fulfilled, to have a purpose to live for. Oh I know the context here…it was all about food you say? Nonsense! This is far deeper than a basket of bread…this is ultimately about the bread of life – Jesus and the search of the soul to live in relationship, finding its purpose.

 Richard Parrott shares a portion of a message given by an extraordinary Methodist preacher named Albert Edward Day in his book, My Soul Purpose;

 “But God is present in reality no matter what unreality our practices and our ponderings imply. He is forever trying to establish communication; forever aware of the wrong directions we are taking and wishing to warn us; forever offering solutions for the problems that baffle us; forever standing at the door of our loneliness, eager to bring us such comradeship as the most intelligent living mortal could not supply; forever clinging to our indifference in the hope that someday our needs, or at least our tragedies, will waken us to respond to his advances. The Real Presence is just that, real and life-transforming”

That day on the hill-side as thousands filled their hungry stomachs with bread that does not sustain forever, the Gospel writer John links this experience in the same chapter with the words of Jesus as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in the Message; “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread — living Bread! — who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live — and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.” (John 6:47-51).  This is the bread will satisfy the longing soul for purpose and fulfillment. I hope you are sharing this bread frequently and faithfully with your people.

 

3)   This is about making something out of nothing – Jesus specialized in the impossible. How is it possible that two fish and five barely loaves could feed over five thousand people and still have more than enough left over? I wish I knew. Here’s what I do know; God can make something out of nothing! Now make it personal…that’s right…it’s for you too. He can take your humblest offering, transforming it into a gift fit for a king, making it pleasing in his sight. By the way, your humblest offering is you! That’s right…he wants you first, foremost and entirely. He wants to stretch you. Yes, it can be uncomfortable and may become difficult at times but it is also rewarding and fulfilling. Through this wonderful, life-changing relationship, he will accomplish things never thought possible. Remember, he specializes in making something out of nothing. He can make new, something that was old; clean, something that was dirty; alive, something that was dead. Nothing is impossible with him. That’s not good news…that’s great news!

 Well that’s my take on it anyhow. I am certain you can work out other lessons the Spirit reveals as important to your walk…but I still think fish & chips sound a whole lot better than fish & bread. And well….at least that’s my opinion!

 

Dennis L.R. Strissel

 

 

Reference

 Parrott, R.L. (2009). My soul purpose. Nashville, TN: The Woodland Press.

 Wilkes, C.G. (1998). Jesus on leadership. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

 

 

“The Family of God and How We Get It Wrong” by Deb Thompson (Captain) “Perspectives” Day 3

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The Family of God and How We Get It Wrong

by Deb Thompson (Captain) 

While growing up, in rural Iowa in a home that served Christ, I always believed I had two families: one was my natural family and my second one was my Church Family.  I believed someday my family of origin would be replaced with a husband and kids.  Then I grew up, remained a single woman past our culturally acceptable age, and was convinced by others that I was off balance.  None of this was taught from a Bible passage, a sermon, a Sunday School class, nor from everyone I met.  Rather, this was taught through socializing in rather indirect ways, from some people inside and outside The Church.

Last October, I discovered a sermon on Youtube entitled, “Singleness and the Next Generation” given by David Platt.  From this sermon, my whole concept of Church Family was completely redefined, reworked and was reborn out of Bible passages instead of the stereotypical Christian culture.  For the rest of this blog, a small cased “family” will mean earthly family, whether biological or by legal documentation, and a capitalized “Family” will mean Church Family (just to save on some verbage).

The concept of family is introduced to us from the very beginning.  Shortly after Adam and Eve were created, God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  From here on, family lineage and family heritage were vital throughout the Old Testament.  God’s chosen people were Israelites, which is lineage and heritage.  When a woman’s husband died, she was to marry the younger brother and have children so that she would be taken care of and because of the significance of inheritance (hence the importance of the stories of Tamar, Naomi and Ruth).  Abraham was told he would be a father of many nations, which is lineage.  If a woman was barren she was considered an outcast and cursed (hence the significance of Sarah and Isaac).  From the Patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were born the 12 Tribes of Israel which is lineage.  The high priest was to be born of Aaron’s lineage.  Kings were decided by lineage.  Jesus was to be born from the root of David, the Tribe of Judah, to a virgin, which all signify lineage.  Then we come to the Book of Isaiah…

Isaiah 53 is a popular passage.  It prophecies of Jesus being pierced for our transgressions, how we, like sheep, have gone astray, and of how Jesus, like a lamb was led to be slaughtered yet did not open his mouth.  In the midst of this passage, in verse 8, it reads, “For He was cut off from the land of the living”.  What’s important about that?  Jesus would not marry nor would he father any children.  To us, it’s an overlooked fact, but thinking about how important lineage was in the Old Testament, and then to learn, the Savior of the world was NOT going to pass on any lineage or inheritance is a shock!  Then in verse 10 we read, “When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will succeed by His hand.”  Wait!  We just read two verses ago that Jesus would be cut off, and then we read about His seed?   That is a complete contradiction!   

Christ will have a seed, but it’s not what the tradition of what The Old Testament holds dear.  In John 1:12-13 we read, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  In I John 3:1 we read, “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the children of God.  And that we are!”

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle was a physical place of worship.  In Hebrews, we see the Tabernacle expands to mean Jesus.  Then in Revelation, we become the Tabernacle.  This concept of worship goes from something physical, to Jesus fulfilling it, to something we will all live together as one day!  I see the family evolving the same exact way!  The nuclear family is created in the Old Testament, Jesus then fulfils the concept of Family to include all people (Gal. 3:28-29) and someday we will all live and reside together as one Family (Rev. 19)! So what does this mean?  This means, I have a family: Mom, Dad, sisters, brothers, sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and grandparents, and then expanding from there is my Family.  I don’t have two distinct families; I have one gigantic Family that someday will all reside together in Christ’s presence and made whole!

The purpose for the family is to populate the earth and to teach about what it means to be a Family.  There’s a saying that goes, “I have my family, and then I have my second family” but I disagree.  Because usually this means we look at people who we get along with and label them as our second family.  The problem is that how well I get along with someone doesn’t determine whether they are Family or not, the blood of Christ does, and F/family sticks together through the good and the bad!

When I was in my first appointment, I had a volunteer approach me and tell me about a dinner she had attended, “…and guess who I sat by?  Your Aunt Opal!  She told me all about your dad and you when you were little.”  I replied, “Oh yes…  Aunt Opal…”  Then I went home later that day and phoned my dad, “Do I have an Aunt Opal?” I asked.  My dad said, “Yes.”  I give this illustration to say, not knowing someone very well, or not at all, doesn’t make someone any less blood related than someone in our family we know well.  Same goes for the Family.  There are millions of people in my Family that I have yet to meet, and they are not any less my Family than those I know well and have met.

There is a Bible passage I now claim, hold close to my heart, and brings me comfort.   It is Matthew 12: 46-50, where Jesus is teaching the crowds and someone gives Him the message that His mother and brothers were outside wanting to speak to Him.  Jesus replied, “Who is My mother and who are my brothers?” then he motions to His disciples and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, that person, is my brother and sister and mother.”    When I was a kid, I always thought it was horrible Jesus didn’t just go running to His family.  Now I understand, He wasn’t neglecting His family, but rather, He was being inclusive to all who follow God’s will, and was teaching them He came to expand the Family, not to limit it.

We also see in John 19:25-27, as Jesus was on the cross and John and Mary were standing next to each other, Jesus says to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  Then Jesus says to His disciple, John, “Here is your mother.  And the passage concludes with this sentence, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”  Why?  Because they were Family, that’s why.

If we go back to Isaiah 54, we read this in verse 1, “Rejoice, barren one, who did not give birth; burst into song and you who have not been in labor!  For the children of the forsaken one will be more than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord” and then it continues to address barren women.   Although, this is speaking directly to one group of women, I think this applies to anyone who is “lacking” in their family.  In the Family, the fatherless find their fathers, the motherless find their mothers, and the childless find their children.  The abused family members find Family members who want to cherish, and where the abandoned family members find committed Family members, etc…  The Family of God is inclusive and everyone fits in perfectly! 

My shift in understanding my Family has changed my ministry.  In Church, I do not sit alone in the front pew, as many probably perceive, instead, I sit with Family.  I am not childless; there are kids I work with in ministry at camp and in youth programs.  I have a limitless amount of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who need my support.  I have a limitless amount of fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters that I need.  It has brought me closer to others, and it has made it easier for me to love those who I share differences with and see the vitality of agreeing to disagree.

The biggest change that has come for me is, once again, I’m reminded of the importance of everyday.  I do not have family that I get to take from appointment to appointment.  With each move, I am required to leave Family behind to be nurtured by someone else, while I go to a new place to meet more of my Family and start all over again.  As a single, I feel it is necessary that I take every opportunity to create memories with my Family, because I will only be allowed to create memories with them for so many years before I move on to minister to more of my Family.  That may be the down side of things, but the exciting part of it is I will never run out of Family!  With each new appointment, with each new group of people, with each new corps, with each new community, my Family will continue to expand.  I will not die alone, as people like to say to singles so often, I will die with an amazingly large Family that I will not be able to count all the members of, and that my dear Family, is awesome to know!

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