Dear Salvation Army, If Only My Corps Had…

Photo Jul 08, 8 08 52 AM Photo Jul 08, 8 07 19 AM
Dear Salvation Army, there might be the instance (from time to time) where we might begin to compare ourselves with others.  Sometimes the comparisons we draw from are from outside our denominational walls, while other times we covetously peer over the “hedge” of our corps and into the properties of another corps which seems to have it all put together.   Thus we can be tempted to play the “If Only” game.

It goes like this: 
If only we had more financial contributions…
If only we had more people…
If only we had a better building…
If only we had more resources…
If only…
If only…
If only…

This is a game that I too have played.
It can be self-defeating and self-destructive.  The “If onlys” can lead to disillusionment and a surrendering to a false identity.  The body of Christ ought not compare itself to another part of the body.  It sounds rather silly when we think of it like that – A Hand of Christ looking at a Foot and wishing it too was a foot…but the reality is that this unfortunately happens all the time.  The “If Onlys” crosses cultural and international lines.  It doesn’t matter what location in the world that one resides in, this game is still played out.   Social media can be a boon as well as a bane.  We can peer through our tiny windows within our computers and see Salvationists from all walks of life.  We can envy the opportunities that they have and we can sometimes covet.  Salvationists this ought not be!

RX3 Prescriptions To Combat “If Only”: 
1) Be Confident That Christ Has Called You To Your Specific Place!
I believe in Divine Appointments.  I recognize that at times the Lord places people at just the right location for His might purposes.  Recognize that where you are right now, even if you serve in a tiny corps in the middle of nowhere, that you are serving the Almighty!  He longs for our faithfulness in the small things as well as the large things.  Accept this ministry in faith and know that God has appointed you there!

2) Claim This Mission Field That Christ Has Given You!
Look around your community, there are many souls who need YOU! Regardless if you have the financial resources or not, God is still on the throne and He will take care of you and this mission field!  Be faithful to God and to the mission field you have been placed in.  We are to be good stewards of what He has entrusted with.  Claim the streets around your corps.  Claim the ministries as opportunities for more people to come to Christ.  Walk those streets in uniform.  Get to know the people living there.  Do not be afraid to be the influence of change and hope in your community!

3) Work Together, Not Against!
Stop peering over the hedge at other corps or other churches that seem to have all of the “if onlys”.  If we are truly the body of Christ then we ought to be working together not against one another through coveting and jealousy.  Share resources when we are able.  Ask for help.  Be mindful that we are all in this together and together we are a much stronger army for God!  Petty Jealousy has no place in our Army.  It is a tool the father of lies wishes to use in order to divide and conquer us.  Keep a clear head and may we fight the good fight with other fellow soldiers at our sides.

So What?
What am I trying to say today?
Don’t allow the “If Onlys” to penetrate and disturb your ministries.
Don’t play this destructive game.
Get on with loving your communities through the power of the Almighty!
He is faithful and He will always provide what you need, when you need it!
Get on with meeting human needs in His name!

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

Dear Salvation Army, Too Much Rhetoric Not Enough Practice??

You don’t have to be in a political office in order to view politics…it’s everywhere including the church.
Church/corps splits have happened because of truly silly things – “the color of the carpet in the sanctuary”…really??

I’m feeling a little feisty today, so please bear with me.
army
Rhetoric…and Holiness???
The Salvation Army struggles with too much rhetoric and not enough practice sometimes.
What do I mean by this?
We (like any church) are so good at saying all of the right things.
We (like any church) are so good at wearing all the right clothes…ahem the uniform.
We (like any church) are so good at touting our scripture verses and doctrines…but can it become more about outward appearances like when the DC, TC or General comes to visit than about personal/corporate holiness?

Sometimes I feel as if we are very good at polishing the outside of the cup while we just keep neglecting to do the hard stuff like cleaning the inside of the cup (our hearts).  We try and try to impress the “brass” with our efforts and works but are we truly living consistently?  This isn’t some sort of witch-hunt today.  I’m not pointing the finger at anymore more than I am pointing fingers. back. at. myself.

This is Personal…
This is truly personal.
if this resounds with anyone else, then great!
Let’s do something about this together.
I honestly know that I am not the only one who struggles with this.
We are so good at singing ‘the Founder’s Song’ in Holiness meeting and thirty minutes later we’re at our favorite “Sunday Lunch Spot” complaining about the wait time, the server, we barely give a tip and then we complain on our way home about the traffic and some ignorant sap who just cut us off…do you get what I’m saying?

This is Deadly…blood
I, for one, do not want to be a member of the Salvation Army in Laodicea, if you get what I mean (Revelations 3:14-22).
If I’m honest, I’d rather rip off this uniform and walk away from it all before I start striving to become a pew warmer and a luke-warm one at that.  The church of Laodicea, according to Revelation, didn’t get their act together.  They didn’t have the passion to serve Christ as His bride.  They weren’t on fire for Him, instead they were barely tepid in their faith.  Sometimes I feel that in our Army we walk a fine line too.  We can utter all of the “catch-phrases” of our Army like “Fire a volley” and “Hallelujah”  but on the inside we’re so caught up in the bickering and pettiness that are missing out on the fire of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t think we need another Pentecost, it’s already here we are just so caught up in our own issues that we can’t see it…that’s just how I see it…I hope I’m wrong.  When did we desire to be a mediocre Army?  When did we sign up to warm a pew but as soon as the hard work comes we’re suddenly absent?  If we are truly “witnesses for Jesus” why aren’t we more visible with this message in the streets?  We cannot hole ourselves up in beautiful Halls of worship and expect the brokeness of neighborhoods to be mended by how well we sing and play an instrument.  We’ve got to get on with it!  We’ve got to either catch fire and be moved by the Holy Spirit or we need to get out of the way and stop hampering the Spirit and the potential growth of other Soldiers.  Either warm up or be spit out.

shielfThis is real…
I have felt this sting of conviction.
I don’t write this as a “guilt trip” for anyone before it strikes my heart and brings ME up short first.
We need to stop “playing” army and be army.
We need to stop fighting amongst each other and fight the real war for the souls of those who are lost.
We need to stop spouting half-empty words of rhetoric when our hearts aren’t in it and instead fall upon our faces and recommit ALL OF WHO WE ARE to Christ once more.
We do not need pew warmers and more apathetic bodies in uniforms, instead we need leaders who are servant who will serve and love regardless of where someone came from or what their last name might be.
We don’t have time to play “church politics”…this gets in the way and stunts our growth as a corporate body of holiness.

It’s “Put up” or “Shut-Up” time.
I have seen the walking dead amongst soldiers and officers.
I have seen the passion-less works of apathetic hearts.
I have witnessed the “going through the motions” without a resemblance of the practice of holiness.
We have a choice.
We can either put up or shut up.
We can either live lives worthy of this calling upon our lives, or we can stop pretending and get out of the way.
This is a wake up call.
This is a call to holiness.
This is a reminder that there is more to it than donning on the uniform and spouting all the right words.

How is your heart today?
How is your spiritual journey?
This is something more for our Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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! 

“From ‘Worst’ to Faithfully Appointed.”

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“I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service.”  -1 Timothy 1:12

The man once named Saul, persecutor and murderer of Christ-followers has been redeemed.  Now, Christ’s ambassador, a humble servant renamed Paul writes to Timothy his protege and for all intense and purposes adopted son.  Paul is nearing the end of his life.  He knows that time is now running out for him.  He isn’t bitter.  He isn’t scorning and cursing his captors – Rome, instead he is making the most of his remaining time.   He writes this encouraging letter to Timothy as a father would lovingly pen words on a page to a son.  Paul considers himself the worst of sinners and even says son in his letter to Timothy.  

Is there regret from his previous life, before Christ cast his light of salvation on him on a dusty Damascus road?  Yes.  But has this regret stopped Paul from living for Christ alone?  No!  Though Paul considered himself the worst of sinners, he indicates to Timothy that Christ had also deemed him worthy of calling. 

What made Paul worthy?  Was it his own hard work and effort to be ‘good’?  No.  How can a killer of Christians now be considered worthy & faithful?  It becomes a matter of the heart.  What lives inside our hearts only we and God know.  What we feed on within out thought processes only we and God know.  Paul was convinced, and the evidence of his ministry results are apparent, that Christ had judged him faithful and appointed him to serve.  

What about us today? 

Do you feel worthy of being called by God?  Are you willing to serve Him wholeheartedly like Paul did?  We don’t need to have a theological degree to serve Him.  We don’t need to be highly educated to gather a towel around our waist and wash the feet of those around us for His glory.  We don’t need to be preachers like Billy Graham to share this message of hope to the world around us.  We just need to be faithful.  Christ Jesus can and will strengthen you as well, just as He did with Paul.  If we say ‘yes’ to His calling (whatever that calling looks like that enables us to serve Him) he will judge us faithful and then also appoint you as well to whatever task He needs you to serve Him in.  

You may consider yourself in your own minds to be the worst of sinners also.  You may think that God cannot forgive you for what you have done in your life…and you would be wrong!  Christ is willing to forgive you if only you will let Him.  When we open ourselves up to Him and His holy cleansing we will find love, grace and hope…we will find new life!  And in this new life, we too will be judged as faithful servants of the Most High.  

Are you willing today to trust Him?  Are you willing to allow Him into your life?  If you say yes to His calling on your life, watch out!  You will never be the same again!  Because the Apostle Paul said ‘yes’ to Christ many, many lives for changed including Timothy who did carry on in Paul’s footsteps.  Because Paul said ‘yes’ to Christ the very world was changed because of His testimony.  Today, this world needs more Pauls to boldly step up and say ‘yes’ to Christ…may you be a Paul today in your answer today!

-Just a thought.  

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Get Ready!

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Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” (Joshua 1:2-3)

 

Moses is dead.  For a short moment the people of Israel are unsure of their new leader Joshua.   He is to fill the sandals of Moses…a tall order.  After all Moses gave them the words of God.  Moses lifted his arms up as God dealt with the Amalekites.  Moses was the conduit in which God set his people free.  Now Joshua is to step into this role. 

You can almost see the uncertainty in the people’s faces.  If Joshua had not been a seasoned warrior and general already, mass mutiny and hysteria would have most certainly broken out.  Yet Joshua was the right leader for the job!    His resume was full, and he trusted God. 

Looking out onto the mass of people that he now commands, for a mere moment Joshua is nervous.  People are depending on him.  So many lives depend upon him to make the right decisions as their leader.  As the momentary panic escapes his chest with a quick exhale, he pushes all doubt aside.  ‘I have full confidence in the Almighty to provide us the way’; he thinks to himself. 

 Though they have yet to cross into the Promised Land, Joshua is just as certain as he was 40 years ago when Moses had initially sent in the spies.  Thinking back to that moment when He and Caleb were the only spies to give a positive report while the other ten spread doubt and dissension among the people.  ‘Had they only listened then’; he utters to himself, ‘things would be so different now.’  Again Joshua sighs, this time in sadness and regret.  ‘Perhaps if we had been more persuasive, they would have listened’, He wonders aloud.  He grits his teeth in renewed frustration as he dwells for just another moment on the memory.  Then, with rebirth of confidence and stubborn conviction he thinks to himself; ‘I won’t let that happen again!

Then it happens, all at once.  God speaks to Joshua.  He had witnessed the glow emanating from Moses as he came down from an encounter with God, tablets in hand.  But now as the voice of God speaks to him, he can’t help but quiver in fear.  Joshua, the mighty warrior is in the presence of Almighty God.  In his quaking and quivering, Joshua hears God say, “Be strong and courageous!” The words of God give him encouragement and instant strength!  The One who spoke life into everything promises to be present and available.  Joshua has the ultimate adviser known in the entire universe! 

God tells Joshua to get the people ready and cross over the river Jordan into the Promised Land.  This is the moment that he’s been waiting for!    The wilderness has been inhospitable to God’s people.   The hot sun scorches the barren rocky earth and destroys any attempt of planting crops or grazing cattle.  Crossing the Jordan will provide them new life!  A New hope!  It is a chance at finally sampling the promises of God in a land that He has granted them. 

Many have died before witnessing this day.  Those who had not listened to God were all gone.  Now redemption, a second chance…Joshua was not about to blow it!  He would ensure that the people were ready this time!  God again said to Joshua; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Joshua led with conviction and faith.  He prepared God’s people for the crossing and the conquering of the land.  He did not want to see the failure of an entire generation again!  Later in his epic journey Joshua tells the people; “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 (NIV)  

What faith Joshua possessed!  When God told him to get ready and cross the Jordan, he got ready and crossed.  When God instructed him to conquer Jericho through a daily march around its walls, he and his people marched!  These new territories were foreign to him, and yet he trusted God to lead and to provide!

Application:  

How about you?  Is God calling you to get ready?  Is He asking you to make a faith journey across unknown territories?  We can’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing when God calls us.  We must act!  God tells us to gear up and get ready.  Our response depends upon how much we trust Him.  Will we go?  Will we do what the Lord has for us to do?  Joshua was a fearless leader who relied upon God to direct His path.  May we do likewise in our lives today!  We may not have to face huge armies and fortified cities like Joshua did, but may we but faithful to God!  May we be prepared to cross our river Jordans when they come…whatever they may be. 

-Just a thought.

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General Election…An Officer’s perspective, and a call to a Month of Prayer.

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I’ve read a number of news stories, blogs and opinion pieces on General Bond and her subsequent retirement.  I’ve re-posted some here on my blog as well as commented on others.  I’ve even discussed this topic with other Officers ‘out there’…it’s fodder, news and it all effects us in some small way.  

It’s common to speculate on the sudden departure of General Bond.  It was certainly not something anyone would have anticipated until next year at her ‘scheduled’ retirement date. However, that being said I do think that simply stating ‘personal reasons’ should be respected.  We may wish to know more.  We may yearn to understand why our primary leader within The Salvation Army suddenly retired, but I seriously doubt that our queries and questions with get answered.  Do I wish there had been more information released from IHQ or from General Bond herself?  Of course I do.  But I also feel that if someone wishes to keep private matters private then we ought to respect those wishes.

Obviously one who is in Authority, as General Bond was, could have helped the Army world understand and even accept her sudden departure had more information been included instead the seemingly cryptic notice.  I believe this would have staved off all of this idle speculation.  But what’s done is done.  We as an Army march on!  We still have a war to engage and so engage we will!  

Secondly, I do not think it wrong to question our authority from time to time.  Even authority within our Army needs sharpening.  But we should also temper our questioning with wisdom, prayer and godly prudence.  After all, every authority regardless if it is the General, Commissioner, Colonel, Major, Captain or Lieutenant are all people fallible and imperfect.  But as I say this I also interject that if we are a holiness movement our actions, respect and love ought to permeate even these dialogues and ponderings.  

That being said, I pray for the upcoming proceedings as Commissioners from around the world gather at the High Council in July.

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Month Long Prayer Intiative: 

 

 I also petition that until then (June 21st – July 29th just over a month) that we as an Army enter a season of prayer.  As we pray; lift up our leaders and Retired General Linda Bond, pray for fellow Officers on the field, pray for the Soldiers around the world, this Mission God has placed us in.  

We march on as One Army, but first let’s gather on our knees in prayer!

Sincerely, 

Scott Strissel, Captain.

 

 

 

From safety to security (Poem)

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I look out of my window

through panes of glass

the blur

warbling images

as I glace from side

to side.

The light parades

itself

dancing to the

jostling rotation

of this God breathed

earth.

From inside

safe and sound

perhaps more in

mind

than in body.

Reality – outside

bleeds darker shades

crimson blending

into the soil.

Heart ache

well within reach

yet, if I close my eyes

I can

make believe

it doesn’t exist

safe behind my tempered glass.

But glancing

from side to side

eyes wide

taking it all in

it would be a sin

to ignore it.

A sin to make believe

it isn’t there.

A sin to stay…

to remain seated

safe and sound

in my little corner…

Something within me

beyond me

beckons

that I should go.

He beckons

that I should act.

Oh Lord,

I have little strength

how can I do

what you would me do?”

And from my little corner

peering out

I hear Him say;

My child who says

you should use

your strength?

for yours would

but a fraction be,

a second

in an hours time…

I will go with you.

 My strength I 

will impart

to you,

I will walk before,

beside and behind…

you will never be left alone.

Now…

I am on the outside,

at times uncertain…

not of His presence

and power

but of where

He will lead

me next

for I go,

not in my strength

but in the One

who

beckons me onward.

Calling… the freaks, the geeks, the rejects and the not good enough!

Mark 2:13-17 (NIV)
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

 

 

The sounds of the crowd echoed off of the small lean-to as they passed.  Some of the people scowled as they walked by then shaking their heads in disgust and finally disappearing out of sight.  This repeated numerous times within the hour, and the occupier of the rickety shack was used to the looks his line of work emitted from the population.  He was a tax collector after all, and the reputation of such an established profession was despised by most and avoided by the rest.  The whispers and cursing under the breath was all a part of the hazards of the job.  He lets the moment pass by, exhales a deep breath, and then bends over the weathered table again to resume his work. 

 

He is so consumed with his “paperwork” that he almost misses the most epic moment of his life.  As the sound of rustling paper replaces the echoes of the passing crowd he begins to sense that he is being watched.  He looks up from the stack of papers still needing to be inspected, and sees a man looking directly at him.  He doesn’t know how long the man had been there just looking at him, but the tax collector is nervous.  “No one looks directly at a tax collector” He thinks to himself, “Why is he just staring at me?” he wonders.  Then the most peculiar thing happens.  The man calls this collector of taxes by name, “Levi, come with me” He says.    For a moment, for one single solitary moment, Levi is absolutely still, as if he is firmly glued to the ground within his work space.  “I can’t just get up and go…can I?” He wonders to himself.  His entire future hinges on this one pivotal moment in time and he doesn’t know it yet.   On one hand if he says “no I’m not going anywhere, I have work to do” then things will remain the same.  Taxes will be collected, harsh expressions on faces, and he will always be unwanted within many social circles around town.   On the other hand, if Levi does go with this teacher what will happen?  What will happen to his family?  Will he be able to return home?  So much hinges on this decision, so many variables and yet Levi, finding the strength to move once more picks himself up and makes the decision to follows Jesus. 

 

Levi, known to us by the name of Matthew made a crucial decision that day which would  not only change his life, but the lives of all those who would one day read his writings also known as the gospel of Matthew, one of the four gospels of Jesus Christ. 

Isn’t it amazing that Jesus selected a tax collector, a profession despised by most people in society to help him spread His story of redemption to the world!  Among his other disciples were the rejects, outcasts and the not-good enoughs.  He turned the world upside down with His message of love, redemption and grace.  He used both men and women, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, the educated and the street smart to convey this all inclusive message to the lost, seeking, and broken. 

 

Still today, the Lord calls to you and to me to follow Him!  We may be far from perfect.  We may be lacking education, self-confidence, social and peer acceptance and many other inadequacies.   Yet He calls us, and can use us if we are available to accept His direction for our lives.  Matthew couldn’t have imagined that day where Jesus would lead him, yet he followed.  We too are asked to do the same.  “Follow me” Jesus says to us…what will your answer be? Image

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