The Problem With Submission…

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” -James 4:7-8

I have a tough time with one word in this passage.
It has nothing to do with God, faith or salvation…it has everything to do with how this word is used in the world, sometimes maliciously, in order to put people in their place.

What is the word?

“Submit”.

I don’t do well with submission.
Honestly, it makes me feel like a prisoner having to obey the warden. (Images of Shawshank Redemption come to mind)…

Perhaps it is because I have personally witnessed that word being used and abused.
Perhaps it is because I struggle with my own need for freedom.
Regardless of the why, there is still the issue with the how…how do I submit…and the ‘who’ – who am I to submit to?

For some of us it is the trust involved in such an act.
Questions like, “what if my trust is betrayed”, and “can I really trust them”?
Many time it isn’t even about submitting to God, but rather authority figures in our own lives; Bosses, business advisors, managers, family members…etc. Then, when we have been burned by submitting to a faulty human-led system, we transplant this disappointment and disillusionment upon God…as if He too is imperfect and will let us down.

I too have struggled with this notion, meanwhile transplanting my own mortal experience upon an immortal God. But have I short changed God when I’ve done this? Do I still struggle with these trust issues? Can I fully submit to God in spite of my past hurts and the numerous failed dumpster fires of attempted human submission?

Maybe I’m overthinking this…have you ever done that?
I’ve counted all of the variables, outcomes, pros and cons way before ever taking a step. My 1st Grade Teacher’s voice keeps ringing in my ear as she said, “look before you leap.” But maybe in this case, it’s the other way round?! Perhaps I just have to go for it and place my all before God when I do.

In James 4:7-8, perhaps it’s more about coming near to God than it is about submitting to Him…because wouldn’t we naturally do that anyway when we really, really know someone? After all, didn’t God come close to us first when He sent Jesus into this messed up world? He met us more than halfway as He hung on a cross for our sins.

You see, I know all of the theological implications of such an act. I know Jesus intellectually, but are there still times when my heart does not know Him…when I’m not near to God, in fact, I couldn’t be further from Him? Have you ever felt like that? We have all of the head knowledge, but when it really comes down to it, there’s a heart issue that still needs working out.

If you’re anything like me, perhaps you’re still trying to reconcile what submission looks like with God. I’ve been on this journey for quite some time, and I feel that the Holy Spirit has led me this far, I’m going to have trust Him in the things I have yet to figure out. He hasn’t given up on me, and I’m positive He certainly hasn’t given up on you either. Perhaps it’s not so much submission that He’s after, but rather a closer relationship with us. After all, doesn’t submission come from a place of trust? I cannot submit to something I don’t trust, and I cannot trust if I don’t come close enough to God.

The trouble with submission is we aren’t close enough to a God who desires a relationship with us…and I’m still working through this. I don’t have a Mary Poppins answer for you, just a notion and a nudge to deepen your relationship with the Almighty…we just might discover that is what was needed all along.

-Something more to ponder today.

Silence is a Killer…A Devotional Pondering.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let’s face it, we all encounter difficult days…some more difficult than others.
There are days that we can manage on our own, and then there are days when we are completely floored by the problems that come our way.  The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…

I know what you’re thinking, “that doesn’t sound very encouraging to me”…let me finish:
The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…but we were never meant to handle it all on our own.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, the new believers in Thessalonica were encountering all kinds of trouble.  Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia which boasted over 200,000 people.  This city was known for being a military and commercial port city.  So within this large city in Macedonia, these young Christians were encountering all sorts of trouble – even persecution and death because of their new-found declarations of faith.  In the midst of their living testimonies, they longed for the day of Christ’s return.  What does that mean?  They lived in fear every single day, and couldn’t wait for Christ to come back.   And so these young Christians lived expectant lives while encouraging each other onward.

The persecution in Thessalonica must have been fierce for the Apostle Paul to remind them that they needed one another and they ought to continue (“just as you are doing”) to encourage one another.

Let’s put this into perspective:
We might not be facing certain death for our faith, instead we might be struggling to pay rent, finding funds to feed our families, enduring a tough problem at work or at home…all of these situations are arduous and, at times they keep us up at night.
The killer is silence. 
What do I mean?
We think no other Christian is struggling, and if they are it must mean that their faith isn’t strong enough.  This could not be further from the truth.
We have this idea that we shouldn’t let other Christians know how discouraged we really are, because we don’t want them to think less of us.  Because we don’t want others to talk.  Because we fear judgment of others.  Because we believe in the perfect Christian life that really doesn’t exist…because we’ve bought the lie that to be a Christian means we don’t struggle with these things anymore.

And so, silence is a killer.
No one knows.
We don’t share.
And our hurts go unchecked, unnoticed, and unaddressed.

Dear Christian,
How can we encourage one another if we aren’t being honest with each other?
How can we carry each other’s burdens if we allow silence to slowly kill our souls?
We cannot continue to buy the lie that everything is fine when we face times of trial and we keep it private.  (Some will laugh at this and say, but church is full of hypocrites and gossipers…then find REAL believers in whom you can confide!)

Healing can begin with out this kind of encouragement, but long is the process and deep the scars.  When we have others who will journey beside us, and encourage us, we will find added strength, hope, abundance and encouragement.

Don’t let silence kill you.

Day 55 -Encouragement Required…

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

I was reminded by a Pastor friend of mine recently that I could be a source of encouragement to others.  His response caught me off guard because I had been complaining and feeling discouraged myself.  At that moment when I had felt defeated, he spoke words to me that was not only what I needed to hear, but it also took me out of the funk that I was feeling within my little pity-party.  This Pastor friend told me to look around and find people who needed encouragement, and to be that encouragement I was looking for in others towards them.  It got me thinking, how much different the world would be if we all were looking out for each other and going out of our way to encourage.

youWe might not know what THAT person is facing or going through, but just by being an encourager can make all of the difference!  A few kind words might be all that is needed.  Perhaps praying with them or for them will be your way of encouraging them.  Whatever it might be, do it…step out there and go out of your way to reassure someone that God loves them and you do too.  A little bit of love goes a long way.

Homework assignment today:  Look up.  Look out, and go to someone you may or may not know and encourage them in some way, shape or form.

Prayer:  Lord grant me your eyes to see the needs of those around me today and this weekend.  Help me to share your love with those I come in contact with.  Thank you for encouraging me, now help me to encourage others.  In your name I pray these things.
-Amen.

Day 29 (Sunday) Planted Like A Tree…

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel,and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” Daniel 6:21-22

Daniel was in a tough spot.
Some of the other administrators of the Persian empire were jealous of him and wanted him dead.  They even went so far as to trick the king into passing an edict that outlawed prayer of any kind unless it was directed to this new king.  Darius liked Daniel.  Daniel had proved himself and he was wise – He also had a mighty God on his side.  But when Daniel faced a moral dilemma, he could have caved…he could have buckled under the nopressure…but he didn’t.  Daniel stood firm.  In fact if you read the story of Daniel and lion’s den you will know that as soon as he hears about this new law he goes up to his room, opens the window that face Jerusalem and he prayed to God.

Daniel has the courage and strength to stand firm even when facing a certain death sentence.  Not only does Daniel break this new law, he opens his windows so everyone can see him pray.  There was no hiding his faith, or pretending to comply, Daniel knew that he couldn’t compromise.

How about you and me?  Are there places in our lives that we are facing compromise?  Have you been tempted to simply “play” along, even though you know in your heart that it (whatever “it” may be) is wrong?  We are called to be set apart for God.  Within that set-apart-ness, there is no room for the compromise of our faith!  We must stand firm, even when societal and cultural pressures tell us otherwise.  Do not move – stand your ground and remain faithful.  This will require strength and fortitude.  Resolve to remain faithful and ask the Lord to help you, He will not leave you if you only cling to Him.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, help me to stand firm in this faith that you have called me to.   Help me when temptation causes me to waver and question my faith.  Allow me your strength when I am weak.  Lead me into victory and show me how I may live to serve you today!  In Your name I pray all of these things.  -Amen.  

 

PonderCast – “Letting Go”

Do Not Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Click Here to listen to today’s PonderCast: “Letting GO” 

Something more to Ponder today!
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Dear Salvation Army Officer…

I wanted to talk with my fellow Officers for a moment today.

Just a simple dialogue.

Success:
Spoken or unspoken there is, within our officership, this need to prove ourselves worthy of more responsibilities and ministries to the point of unholy ambitions in our Army.  I am not saying don’t work hard, don’t do your best but if our intention is to “outshine” other fellow officers…If our intention is to “look better” than everyone else…if our intention is aimed at solely pleasing our leaders regardless of how we do that…we will have aimed at the wrong goals.

crest3Outcome Based Success…
Much of the time, our success seems to be based upon “goal oriented” outcomes.  In a business world this is understandable because in the business world they deal with numbers and figures.  Our primary purpose as an Army and as officers is for people and helping those people with the physical and the spiritual needs.  We cannot simply use goal oriented outcomes.  There is a danger of seeking success solely through these means of outcomes.  The danger is that we can lose focus on the very people we are attempting to save and serve.  It is often a fine line to walk.

What if we feel Unsuccessful in an Appointment? wounded
What happens, dear officers, when all that we feel about the place that we have been appointed to is failure and defeat?  What occurs in our hearts?  Is our self-worth tied up completely in living and dying by some sort of “success” meter in Officership?  If we do not have 100+ people coming to Holiness meetings on Sunday mornings then we are utter failures as officers?  Is that how we are to view appointments?  More than likely, on average, your Sunday services are a lot less than 100 people.  But why do we play the numbers game and think this is our measure of self-worth?  Were we misled to think this way?

I do remember coming out of Training College sort of living and breathing the song “We’re gonna fill, fill fill the world with glory!  We’re gonna smile, smile smile and not frown…”  But then the real world hit me square in the face.  The world, where in order for some people to receive the glory, hard work and love needs to take place first.  We serve in a mighty army but many that we serve are hurting, broken, spiritually wounded and stunted.  Miracles do happen but we cannot expect this calling to be a cake walk either.

nevermindBut Be Encouraged…
Although we face a lot of difficulties as Officers and often times we take the burdens of others home with us, we are not alone in this fight!  We are soldiers and we serve, first and foremost, the Commander of this Army – Jesus Christ!  He has commissioned those Christ-followers to make disciples…and in our Army, perhaps this translates to one or two people in our corps right now.  Perhaps it’s not so much about absolute victory in our communities right now, but rather the healing and restoration of a few hurting souls that we already know.

Let earthly success worry about itself…take off that heavy burden that sometimes has been thrust upon us by misleading notions of heavenly success.  Let’s do our best, but don’t forget to keep the main thing the main thing in the process.  Losing sight of our principle relationship to the Lord can will cause us to lose sight of every other priority!

We are One Army…be encouraged dear Officer, we serve a mighty God who will provide us the means and direction for the future with and sometimes in spite of those who lead the way.
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Something more to ponder today in our Army.
To God Be The Glory!

Encouragement For A Soldier’s Heart…

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Mama said there’ll be days like this
There’ll be days like this mama said” -(by Luther Dixon & Willie Denson)

Are you having one of THOSE days?

troubleOur Troubles…
Our frustrations and troubles within this world look vastly different from the early church and that of Jesus’ disciples.  Yet, this verse is for you and for me today.  All too often we engage souls in these ministries that we are responsible for.  All too often we hear other people’s problems and they become ours.  It becomes a shared burden.  We provide care, support and guidance to many within our flock.  We feel the burden of these cares, and sometimes they weigh heavy on us.

Other times our troubles come by way of our calling.  Sometimes the ministries we have been called to or placed in suddenly become a “dry and thirsty land” with very little by way of encouragement, support and hope.  Sometimes instead of a passionate, flowing river of a numerically “successful” ministry we face a slim trickle of moderate or rare numeric success which makes us ponder the questions: “am I cut out for this?” and “what have I done wrong?“…and we face discouragement, disillusionment and even depression.

Still, on other occasions these troubles come by way of outward pressures in our communities or individualistic persecutions.  Perhaps we face false teachers, or we must confront immorality within our church and when we do, we’re blasted as “judgmental” and shouted at with curses and graceless comments such as “how dare you, what gives you the right?”  We question if we should have just let sleeping dogs lie but in our hearts we know it was the right thing to do and we did so with grace and love.  Still…troubles from without and from within have left us wounded and discouraged.

About That Peace?…peace
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples after telling them of not only His pending death but also of their pending troubles in the world…but there was hope.  There is always hope in the Father.  There is always hope in the Son.  There is always hope in the Holy Spirit who guides us on this path.  Have you ever heard the phrase “keep the main thing the main thing?”  It alludes to the need for keeping the principle of our mission at the forefront of our minds.

Our Principle:  The message of Christ (Messiah), the message of the cross, the message of salvation, of resurrection, of hope, of reconciliation, of love, and victory over sin and death.

When we keep “the main thing the main thing”, we realign ourselves with God and turn away from the problems of this world.  Not that the problems of this world aren’t important, but rather, The Author of life itself takes His proper place in our priorities.  From this place of understanding we then can look around our world and truly see how things are and how they could be.  This is when we begin to see the world through the eyes of Christ because we are striving to live for Him alone.  This is holiness.  This is surrendering ourselves at the foot of the cross and then picking up our own crosses to follow Him.

Peace?  What Peace?
Carrying our crosses and following Him (Matthew 16:24) doesn’t sound “peaceful” does it?  Pain still exists.  Hurtful accusations, slander and suffering will still occur.  How could THIS be peaceful?   One might ask.  Perhaps “peace” means something differently than what we initially thought it to mean.  It is certainly not the absence of conflict in our lives; for there is still conflict.  It is not the absence of adversity, discouragement or suffering either; for we still encounter these on our path as well.  Then what is this peace that Christ provides to us if it is not the absence of conflict?  It is an eternal peace.  A peace that transcends this temporal, mortal existence.  It is a peace that alleviates the burdens of our former self as we embrace the image of Christ.  It is a peace that resides in our lives because His Holy presence brings us assurance and hope.  It is a peace that still passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7) yet conveys to us that we are not alone and we will overcome because He has overcome.

soldiers3Dear Soldier…
Are you in need of that peace today in your life?
Are you facing discouragement, hopelessness and pain?  You aren’t alone.  You do not have to carry this burden by yourself.   There is One who can provide you with this peace.  Perhaps there is some realignment that must be done in your heart today.  Perhaps we must go before the Father again with a penitent heart.  Perhaps it is a simple yet constant prayer of “Lord use me and allow me to see evidence of You in my life.

Be encouraged today!  We are not alone.  We are not abandoned.  We are overcomers because Christ has overcome the world.  Allow this peace to evident in your life today!

Something more to ponder today.  To God be the Glory!

3 Things Christians should stop saying…

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…if they aren’t sincere.

Everyone of us have heard these phrases.  We’ve probably even used them a time or two…and dare I say half of the time we haven’t truly meant them.  So why do we keep using these phrases?  To be nice?  To sound sincere?  Because it’s “church” lingo?  Why on earth would anyone come back to us seeking genuine help and support if what we’re saying isn’t actually backed up with truth and sincerity?  

The Apostle Paul once said, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) It sounds as if this church was doing what was necessary to support one another with love and with the correct words with action behind them.  

Here’s a thought for us before we explore these four phrases…brothers and sisters in Christ: DON’T SAY THINGS THAT YOU DON’T TRULY MEAN!!!  Okay…moving on.

3 THINGS CHRISTIANS SHOULD STOP SAYING…if they aren’t sincere:

1) “I will pray for you”

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I hope THIS is never our motivation to say this phrase!

 

This is seemingly the most innocuous phrase we as Christians say to each other and to those who aren’t yet saved.  It might be within a sentence such as “I am so sorry you’re going through that right now, I will pray for you.” And then five minutes later when we have gone on our merry little ways we completely to forget to follow through with that promise.  Let me ask you this; how truthful, honest and sincere is that?  Don’t say things like “I will pray for you” if you don’t truly mean it!  No one knows if you will actually follow through with your promise…but God will.  I don’t say that to scare any of us, but if God knows our hearts why do we say things that we have no intention of committing to?  If you or I say “I will pray for you”…then DO IT!!

2) “It’s not the Lord’s timing”

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How could we possibly know that? Do you or I have a direct line to God?  Have we checked with Him regarding this person?  There are many different circumstances that we’ve either said this or heard someone say this to us.  At times it’s used to lord power over another or rationalize human/leadership decisions by making it sound as if God planned these human decisions.  I’m not saying that God doesn’t intervene, because He does, but don’t try to explain away your/our/others decisions by saying “it’s not the Lord’s timing”…unless you have received true discernment from the Lord Himself.  (That last sentence in and of itself is another conversation for another time)

3) “Perhaps God is closing this door in order to open another door”

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This one ruffles my feathers.  Admittedly this specific phrase is a pet peeve of mine.  Does God truly “open doors”?  I know He can provide inspiration and direction for our lives and in certain specific people in this world I imagine He calls very clearly…but opening doors?   Perhaps you will disagree with me on this and that’s fine, but there are times when we use this phrase flippantly instead of asking the right questions.  It can become an escape mechanism for some to bail on the hard path in pursuit of an easier path.  If we’re not asking additional questions to fellow Christians about their specific circumstances and instead we use this phrase, we could be giving them a green light to bail.  

Secondly, we could use this phrase in order to be rid of a certain person in our lives too.  Ask yourself before using this phrase (if you plan to use this phrase) is this what I discern God to be saying to me about this situation?  Am I sincere in what I’m saying here, or am I just trying to give permission to a fellow believer to walk away?  I do believe, however, that God blesses whatever pathway we choose in life as long as He is at the forefront of that relationship.  His plans for us sometimes may be specific and at other times can be left to us to decide upon.  

Be a sincere encourager!  

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If we use these phrases and lack the sincerity coupled with genuine compassion for our fellow believer we could do more harm than good.  Be careful how you use words!  Be careful how your counsel and offer advice.  Consider not only your motivation but also how we can lift each other up and genuinely care for each other as fellow sojourners of the cross!  

-Just something else to ponder.

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