Dear Salvation Army, Selling Your Soul For Relevancy…

It is one thing to be culturally relevant in our worship settings:
-For the music to be relevant to the demographics of our congregations.
-For the messages to be relevant to our target audiences.
I’m not saying relevancy is wrong…we need to be relevant to some degree!

But…

could there ever be a point at which we sell our souls for the sake of relevancy?
How far is too far?
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How far do we go in order to reach our local cultures yet do not lose our souls in the process?  There is no denying that The Salvation Army is needed and has the capacity to do wonderful things as we strive to help people in need.  We mustn’t lose this in any transformational process.   We cannot lose our identities as an Army of Salvation for the sake of “fitting in”.  Booth wasn’t so much concerned with “fitting in” as he was concerned with meeting human needs in Christ’s name.  He even worked with politicians to change labor laws and make working conditions safer for people by building a match factory.    Booth wasn’t about merely “fitting in”, he (Catherine too of course) was about making a difference in people’s lives while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Wearing a uniform doesn’t quite allow any of its Salvationists to “fit in”…but they are certainly identifiable, and these elements which make us stand out can help us to be a light in a seemingly dark world.  We have the capacity to help transform lives with the help and power of the Holy Spirit.  Our main goal should never just be about relevancy.  This isn’t the main principle of what we do and who we are (or vice-versa).  The principle can still be summed up in one of our oldest slogans “Soup, Soap, Salvation!”  We were formed to go for souls and go for the worst.  We are united under one God, One Salvation, One Hope for the whole world.  We cannot water this down, but we can offer hope, love, support and grace one spoonful at a time.

Dear Salvation Army, have we sold our souls at times for relevancy?
Are we doing it right now?

Sometimes I fear that we chase the almighty dollar more than we chase after the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes I think that we fear what other entities including governments will do to us if we boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in our programs and in public places.

Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t an army of Salvation anymore but rather more of an army of convenience and platitudes as long as no one is offended by the gospel.

Sometimes I wonder if we have lost a step in this march because of it.
Sometimes I wonder if we have been chasing after the approval of other people instead of the approval of God.

Sometimes…

If this has ever or is the case…then we need repentance.
If this is the case in our personal ministries we need to seek reconciliation and a realignment of priorities and holiness.

To the faithful and to the upright…show us the way!
Be examples to the rest of us.
Help us when we have gotten so focused upon pleasing the world around us that we have strayed from our first love.
I am not casting any blame upon anyone more than myself in this entry of Pastor’s ponderings today.  I have felt this conviction within my heart.  These are personal and yet public because perhaps, just perhaps there are others out there who feel the same way.

Join me, pray with me, pray for me…and I will pray for you as well.
We are not alone in this fight…we never were.
We are an Army, fighting side by side and with the power of the Holy Spirit who can and will provide us His strength and guidance along this dusty rugged path.

“Give me one pure and holy passion.
  Give me one magnificent obsession.
 Give me one glorious ambition for my life
  To know and follow hard after You.

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you”

(by MARK ALTROGGE)

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

Child Stars -Hollywood’s Role Models of Death

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I admit it, I’m in a bad mood.  I’ve just grabbed my soap box and I plan to stand on it for a moment or two.  I have a confession to make.  I hate child stars and child actors.  But let me clarify.  It’s not specifically the person I hate, it’s what these networks which are cash cows hell bent on their endless cravings of greed have done to them. I hate the system.  I hate the build up of these children, as the television, movie and music industries exploit and seemingly pimp out these young stars and bleed them dry of their lives.  These industries commercialize and exploit young children and their families.  Brainwashing happens…not like it’s done in the espionage world but these kids are taught at a young age that appearance is everything.  They are told in so many words “don’t get fat”, “look your best”, and you’ll make us money. Parents and the child stars are sucked into these lifestyles and the industry works these children to either an early grave from drugs or suicide or until they grow up, grow old, get in trouble with the law and lose their ‘shine’.

Far too many of these ‘pop tart’ stars are milled out every year as the ‘next big thing’ and our children are subjected to these standards of acceptance and perception of perfection.  I’m sick and tire of it.  I can’t tell how much it grinds on me to see former child stars like Miley Cyrus and Lindsey Lohan flop around on music videos flaunting their half naked selves in order to break the ‘childhood star perceptions.   I can’t tell you how much it annoys me that some of these stars who have lost the lime light claw and scratch for any sort of media attention even to the extremes of partying, rehab and arrests.

It is a sad, vicious cycle of self deprecation, egotistical flaunts and greed.  What makes it even worse is that our children look up to these stars.  They’re in some ways peers to our children.  Turn on the t.v. and they are there, front and center.  Perhaps it’s time to turn off the television.  To stop supporting these networks that pimp out child stars upon the public stage.

I’m so sick and tired of hearing about the latest childhood star who was found dead.  When will these networks be held responsible for the monsters that they have created?  When will we reach a point where people will wake up and discover the acting lifestyle with its glitz and glamour has a dark and twisted underbelly?

I’m almost ready to come down from my soapbox…almost.  But look at the victims of these industries for a moment with me, and this is just a tip of the iceberg:

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Corey Haim: (December 23, 1971 – March 10, 2010)

80’s child actor who starred in many box office hits but struggled with drug addiction and the pressures of performing successfully.  Though his death was ruled accidental overdoes he fought his demons of Hollywood.

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River Phoenix (August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993) He died on a sidewalk outside a nightclub of a drug overdose.  He also starred in movie hits as a child actor and ironically enough was even a spokesperson for an anti-drug campaign shortly before his death.

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Heath Ledger: (4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008) Heath was a child star from Australia who started off on television and became world famous actor.  He wasn’t much of a chronic but drug user but struggled with sickness and sleeplessness and overdosed on medications.

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Cory Monteith (May 11, 1982 – July 13, 2013)

Star of t.v.’s hit show ‘Glee’, Cory Died after failing to stay in rehab and overdosed on drugs.

ImageAmy Winehouse: (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011)

Drug overdose

ImageJonathan Brandis  (April 13, 1976 – November 12, 2003)

Child star in movies such as Sidekicks, Neverending Story and tv shows like Seaquest.   He discovered acting to be very difficult as an adult, dealt with bouts of depression and heavy drinking.  Gone too soon, died of at his own hand -suicide.

Image Dana Plato (November 7, 1964 – May 8, 1999)

Suicide.

Image Lee Thomas Young

(February 1, 1984 – August 18, 2013) -Suicide.

There so many more that could be listed here.  Some died from drug and alcohol overdoses, others vehicular accidents, and still others suicide and murder.

I recognize there are many choices that people make.  I recognize that not every child actor ends up this way.  But seriously the statistics of drug overdose or suicide are so much higher with former child stars than any other demographic.   What does this teach our children, what does this teach us of our culture today?  We live in a very fickle world where beauty and popularity lasts mere moments and then it’s gone.  Do we allow culture to teach our kids, do we allow it to replace us as the parent or the teacher or the guardian?  We are our children’s parents, our child’s role models, we are their instructors in this life.  Step up and act like it.

Ok…now I’m stepping off of my soapbox for a while.

“I Don’t Care!”

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This is my biggest pet peeve in my house.  I have a pre-teen boy, and his teenage brother, and both of them use this phrase all of the time.  It drives me absolutely crazy!  To me, it speaks of an apathetic life style that I can not tolerate in my life or the lives of those whom I love.  The world, unfortunately, has far too many people who are apathetic to circumstances and other people.

To me one of the worst qualities in our culture currently isn’t hatred, lust, or envy, it’s apathy.  From this one faulty characteristic flows all of the rest of that which is broken in our fallen world.  The “I don’t care” mentality strikes and literally breaks the heart of God.  I believe this to be absolutely true especially in the Church.

If the church, of all places, cultivates an “I don’t care” mentality then its doors should just close today, because with it dependence on God evaporates.  With this mentality intact inside the doors of the church, it becomes the church of Satan.   Harsh words?  Of course, but isn’t that what Satan wants most from those who are Christ-followers; to quit, to stop caring, to give up the fight?

I’m not sure about you, but I never want to embrace the “I don’t care” mentality.  Because to do so, I give up that which does matter, and the One the does care…for me, and the rest of this world.

I DO CARE!  Should be our motto when faced with this apathetic attitude even within us.      I DO CARE, because God cared for me even before I knew Him.                                            I DO CARE, because I didn’t deserve redemption yet Christ gives it to me freely!                           I DO CARE, because I have been charged by Christ within the great commission to care for those who still needs to hear the good news!

Why do you care?  Praise God for simple reminders, and those moments of conviction in all of us!  I DO CARE, how about you?

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Good News, Bad News…

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Good news is sometimes hard to find.  We turn on the news and discover more violence, more issues, more bad news.  In journalism there’s a saying, “bad news sells”…are we that consumed by bad news?  Do we thrive on bad news like the Romans and their Colosseum games of torture and violence?   Has society become blood thirsty voyeurs?  It is certainly a perception of our society that isn’t too far from the truth.

In a song by mainstream Christian band “Switchfoot” called “Blinding Light” they explore the lies in our culture today, and one of the lines says, “We are culture that eats our youth”.  When you consider the ramifications and consequences of our media saturated world there is a dark side to our thirst for news stories and drama.

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Do we neglect the Good News?  Does our world need this good news?  The answer to both of these questions is a resounding ‘Yes’!    Acts 8:34-35 tells us of a moment in the ministry of Philip who encountered a person who needed to hear about this good news: “The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

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This good news needs to be heard in our world!  There will be many who will ignore it, many who will dismiss it, but our call by Christ in the great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19)

So go and tell this awesome good news to those you meet today!  The world doesn’t need more bad news, they need good news…they need The Good News!

-Just a thought for your day!

Giving up on Easter?

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It’s April 1st today.  Obviously the stores are all preparing for the next big holiday and opportunity to make money.

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The Easter bunnies, Lilies and other ‘seasonal’ items are on sale at severely discounted prices…it’s a steal!  But the thought came to mind this morning, are we giving up on Easter?

Not so much the Easter eggs or the fancy dresses, but rather the the implication of resurrection in our lives.  Our culture moves at such a fast pace that Easter is literally and figuratively yesterday’s news and we move on to the next best thing.  But are we missing out?  Are we losing the true meaning of Easter when we cast our vision on tomorrow and miss out on the sacredness of Jesus’ resurrected ministry before the ascension?

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I think the answer is yes.  I reminds me of driving on the highway.  I like to speed a little, and down I go on the highway making good time, and once in a while I will drive right by an exit that I’m supposed to take.  I have to keep driving up the road, which is out of my way and make a u-turn at the next exit to reach my destination.  So it is sometimes with us, who are immersed in our cultures.  We get up to cruising speed, we’re really speeding through life and we miss our exit.  We miss the destination all together if we’re not careful.  The danger is the meaning of the resurrected Christ vanishes in our fast paced lifestyles.

When Jesus said I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10) He wasn’t just saying words to make us feel better, He truly meant them!  We can have new life, new hope, new peace…but if we speed by this wondrous event at the speed of light we may never grasp it.

It may be Monday, the day after Resurrection Sunday, but don’t be too quick to move onto the next best thing.  Take some time today to reflect on Resurrection, Eternity, Heaven, God’s Kingdom here on Earth!  Take your time, ponder it, and allow the peace that passes all understanding fill you today.  Don’t give up on Easter just yet…matter of fact, don’t give up on it at all.  This event was epic, never duplicated again and Christ invites us to the empty tomb today to participate in this resurrected life and to live it abundantly.

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