Dear Salvation Army, Leading Through Grace Or Fear?

Recently I wrote on the topic of being a leader or a manager
Click link here to read: Are You A Leader Or A Manager?

Today I wanted to expound on this topic. 
Just because we are modeled after the military doesn’t mean we are now equipped to bark orders.
If we look hard at our mission and the purpose for which we were created, we would recognize that our mission is about grace and love to those we can reach.  I wonder sometimes if we forget our purpose from time to time.  Sometimes when power and authority is given to a person it can taint that person, make them “too big for their britches” (as my Grandmother used to say).  Power and authority, if not handled correctly, can cause more harm than good.  An added measure of humility is needed, as well as the constant reminder that the Holy Spirit is really who is in charge…and drives us to do the mighty work that we do.

Let me dissect this issue this morning, and I’m not saying this happens all the time, but it does happen from time to time in our Army and we need to be aware of it!

Leading through Fear:  fear
When a leader (Local Officer, Corps Officer, Divisional Officer, Territorial Officer) leads through fear and intimidation a few things take place – sure, the “fear of God” is put into those they “Command”, but so does resentment, reluctance in making any further decisions, and innovative/creative thinking takes a back seat.  This goes back to being a manger instead of a leader.  A manager has the tendency to micromanage everything and does not allow those who work under them to claim part of the ownership within the mission.  When the micromanaging takes place the workers or those subordinate to the manager feel as if the manager is lurking over their shoulder all the time and will pull back from being proactive for fear of not adhering to the manager’s vision.  You see when leading through fear, generally it’s not about a shared vision, it is about perceived forced vision that only one can manage and the rest must fall in line.  This is not a consultative democracy by any means, rather this model represents a fearful authoritative model of management.

Leading through fear might garner results, but it also suffocates ingenuity, creative planning and incorporating others into the vision.  As an Army, many of us have witnessed this type of leadership whether at the corps level, at the divisional level or beyond.  Sure, perceived strength in that “leader” might occur, but a stronger model brings others along to accomplish the mission not by wrangling, forcing and demanding.

graceLeading through Grace:
I recall one such leader in my life.
He was giving me feedback on my performance, and in the midst of his honest and candid critique he actually wept when praying for my wife and me.  It was touching, it was genuine…it wasn’t business as usual, this leader actually cared for us and wanted us to become the best leaders we could possibly be.   Was this leader a “pushover”?  No way!  He could be firm when he needed to be, but many times his leadership exuded a godly example of grace and love for those he led.

Leading through grace doesn’t mean subordinates can do whatever they want and there is little to no accountability, rather this type of leadership (not management) provides kind and loving direction so that not only the mission can be completed but a shared vision can be cultivated.

It is weakness not strength that dictates to managers that they must exert their authority and “put the fear of God” into a subordinate.
It is weakness not strength that commands respect, when respect is earned by working alongside one another.
It is weakness not strength that requires telling people what to do over consulting them and finding the solution to issues together in order to accomplish the same holy mission.

Let me say something controversial here for a moment –
The Salvation Army needs fewer managers who lead through fear and intimidation and more leaders who will lead by example and lead through grace!  Perhaps that isn’t so controversial at all…perhaps this is already happening.  I believe that the time of fear mongering “leadership” within our Army is at an end.  I believe that if we are to better our Army, more grace must be exercised.  More love exuded.  More honesty and ownership of the mission.  We cannot rely on some of our failed models of leadership to usher us into the present and future.

Some might think this is completely and totally directed and executive leadership, but I beg to differ.  This is directed at anyone and everyone who might pick up a mantle of leadership from the local officer level all the way up to the office of General.  How we choose to lead makes a HUGE difference!
So what will it be?
Leadership built on Fear or Leadership built on Grace?
Grace still has accountability.
Grace still has difficult conversations.
Grace still commands respect (more so than fear ever did).

I hope we all aspire to be the kinds of leaders that exude grace and love…let’s put down the iron fist.
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

The Beauty of Faith And Fear Living Together.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?Psalm 27:1 

fear1The truth is, we DO face fear in this life.
The truth is, we DO suffer from paralysis from time to time because of fear.
If we allow fear to take up a permanent place within our hearts, we rob ourselves of experiencing the joys of life that God offers to us.  Fear can only have power if we allow it to have power in us.

That is easier said than done when all of a sudden a moment of crisis takes place and our hearts plummet over that jagged cliff of trepidation and dread.  It is easier said than done when we come to the end of our ropes and we have nothing else to cling to.  It is easier said than done when we exhaust all hope and resource and still we can’t afford to make ends meet.

Fear is real.
But so is faith.

Questions to ponder today: 
Is fear ALWAYS bad?
Is there ever a place for fear?
Does fear ever coexist with faith?

I once heard a phrase that I still struggle with.fear
The phrase was spoken to a group of us in a church meeting once.
It goes like this:  “Faith and fear can’t exist in the same space”
I’m not sure I agree.
Sure, it sounds good on paper and all.
It’s a good mantra to utter in the face of adversity.
But is this saying really true?
I just don’t think it is.
It could be an awesome “battle cry” to rally the troops and help encourage the discouraged…but I think faith and fear sometimes go hand in hand.

I suppose the word fear has to be defined in this conversation.
I think there are varying degrees of fear to think about when we talk about “faith AND fear”.
We don’t want to generalize fear to mean something all encompassing when it comes to “what we are afraid of”, rather I believe the kind of fear that is present within faith is a trepidation rather than a full blown paralyzing fear.  I like one of the definitions of the word “trepidation” because it sort of crystallizes to me how faith and fear can coexist together in us.
The definition I think that fits is this:

‘Trepidation’ – a trembling motion.

To me this means that although we do not know what the future has in store for us, there IS STILL MOTION in us.
It sort of sums up that coined phrase “stepping out in faith” for me.
Although we have said “yes” to Christ and we have made that proclamation to the world around us, there is still the motion that is needed…and within that motion is a trembling.

Perhaps some of us dig deep and that trembling isn’t ever noticeable.
While in the rest of us that trembling aspect of faith is extremely evident.
It is more than mere nervousness of the unknown, it is a moving fear that propels faith to action.
It is more than reverence for God “fear and trembling”, it is an action verb that puts fuel on the fire of our faith.
Do you have fear today? 
If you do have fear, I want to tell you that it is okay.
Don’t ever think that just because you’re fearful that there is something wrong with your faith walk.
Fear CAN exist within faith, and if understood and utilized correctly, it can help us to put feet and movement to our faith!

Something more to ponder today!

BEWARE: Bitter Feasting and Hardened Hearts



  “As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts ….” Hebrews 3:15 (NIV)


This passage is a reference from Psalm 95:7-8.  Do we still harden our hearts today?  
What does it even mean to “harden our hearts”?



What I understand it to mean is when we allow bitterness to enter into our lives and hearts.  When we feel abandoned by God, even when He hasn’t left us, we might be inclined to become angry and bitter.  Thus the hardening of our hearts occurs when we turn from anger to a scary emotion of hopelessness and apathy.  Perhaps in this swing of emotion and temperament we simply give up.  We give up trying, we give up believing and we give up hope.  

Beware of the hardened heart!

 All of us have feasted on the bitter roots of sorrow, disappointment and anger.  Each one of us, if we were honest, have asked the question silently (maybe out loud) “why God?”   In that moment of bitter feasting we must recognize a couple of things lest we fall into total despair and experience the totality of a hardened heart.

2 Things:

1.  God has not abandoned you!  


Your friends, colleagues, organization you work for, neighbors and family may not completely understand.  They may not be there for you.  In fact some might even let you down or watch you crash and burn (I know positive isn’t it?)…BUT God has not abandoned you! Envision Jesus on the cross.  He hung there horrifically dying for the sins of humanity and He cried out “Oh God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus quotes a Psalm of David here (Ps 22:1), yet the human emotion evoked here is very real.  Jesus’ humanity is evident, and even in the midst of this He still knows that God hasn’t truly abandoned Him…though it feels like it in His suffering.  We may not be hanging on a cross, but we most likely know a thing or two about pain and suffering as well.  The pain and suffering we might experience could be physical or emotional and in the midst of these “dark times” we might feel compelled to call out to God and ask Him why He has abandoned us.  

Don’t let that emotion or thought cause you to give up hope!  Do not allow despair and bitterness to creep in and destroy your faith. God does not abandon His own!  He will never leave you or forsake you!  (Hebrews 13:5-6)  The world around you might try and convince you that He has left you all alone, but don’t buy the lie of the worldly influence.  Don’t buy the lie for a moment.  Also don’t feel guilty about considering this very human response to pain – Jesus even uttered those words.  Pain is not something we wish to keep around us, yet in those moments of severe doubt, depression and pain remember God has NOT abandoned you!

2.  SO WHAT? 


Do you live with fear?  Do you live with pain, discouragement, doubt, sorrow?  In the grand scheme of things, these are all fragments of a broken and fallen world in which we live.  I don’t mean to paint a picture here of a hopeless world because God created this world so that we could fellowship with Him…there is beauty here and remnants of His initial creation.  Yet sin has marred that.  Sin and the fallen nature in which we live has brought with it these broken, negative emotions.  If we could step back from our problems and our pain for a moment and see Us how God sees us, I believe we could possibly grasp just a glimpse of the love and potential He has for us all.  Secondly, God doesn’t want to leave us this way – hopeless and alone; fearful and bound by pain, bitterness and anger.  God wants to do a mighty work within us.  

We have to be willing to say to our fears and pain – “So what?”  When the pain becomes intense, or the depression penetrates us deeply we can look at these blights and say “So what, do you worst, I know in whom I believe!”  

The Apostle Paul (while in chains) puts this “So what” principle into perspective for us: 
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel” -Philippians 1:20-27 (NIV) 

The Apostle Paul confronts his potential roots of bitterness, anger and despair by saying “whether I live or die I will conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  

So what if I die.  So what if I experience heart wrenching disappointment in life.  So what if I have to go through this pain right now.  So what if I am not accepted by others.  So what if others don’t see the potential in me that I know is there…SO WHAT?

If I can keep my perspectives clear and understand that all that I do and all that I say should be for the glory of God despite outside influences, then I can avoid this hardening of my heart.  This world can’t shake me.  I won’t be defined by others who have no interest in helping me develop and further in my personal holiness.  I won’t harbor bitterness towards the Savior because I live in a fallen world and often times it’s screwed up – not me.  

I am reminded of the chorus “One thing remains, Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me!”  

2 Principles and a pondering conclusion: 

God has NOT abandoned you.  He is the same today as yesterday and He will never leave us alone!
So what if the world doesn’t recognize you.  So what if you face fears, pain and disappointment?  God never fails you!
If Paul could say “so what” to death for the cause of Christ, we too can say “so what” to our troubles.  

Some might say, “well that’s easier said then done”…of course it is.  This will never be easy.  This will be the hardest thing we ever have to do, yet if we can rise above these temporal issues we will find the strength to make it through! 

Don’t harden your heart!  Don’t allow the father of lies to convince you that no one cares.  Don’t become consumed with apathy and despair.  Don’t feast on those roots of bitterness any longer.  Beware of its trappings, cling to these two important principles and wait on God to provide His salve to your life.



-Just a pondering for you today!  


A Note from God (A poem)


When the light is sucked from your eyes 

and terror is masked as hope disguised 

I will hold your hand and bring the day

I will hope when your earth gives way. 


When dreams become hollowed and cold

and you are left with nothing to hold

I will hold you within my loving arms 

I will keep you from fear and harm.


And if you falter and lose all sight

I will be there to shine my light

and ignite your faith with my grace 

so that my love you will embrace. 


I have never left you, I am here 

I will help and dry  your tears 

These nail scarred hands will guide you there

I am Your Savior I will always care!  

The Waters of Faith and Fear – Find Jesus there!



I’ve been looking at the painting.  I’m mesmerized by it.  Have you ever studied a painting?  Have you looked closely at the details?  The brush strokes?  The unspoken drama captured in a mere moment?  Look at the waves, how they list back and forth, how they swell to a crescendo and fall back down again.  It’s almost as if you can watch them in their lunar symphonic dance.  As I look into this painting I see so much of me.  I see evidence of my doubt, evidence of my fears and evidence of my lack of strength.  I see me drowning there, not just Peter.  I see what could happen if I fall down into the depths of this flowing tide.  The water filling up my lungs.  The panicked shock becoming reality.  My feeble life flashing before my eyes.  I can imagine it…can you?

 As I look at this painting, a story we’ve all heard before while sitting in those stiff backed, wood-oil scented pews that creak when you shift positions…the story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus.  We’ve heard the details of this story.  How Peter saw Jesus walking towards them and cried out to Him, “Lord if it is really you call me to come out there with you…and Jesus said ‘Come'” (Matthew 14:22-33).   So Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking towards Jesus on the water.  You see we often stop here in this story and think to ourselves “wait for the ‘but'” and we call this Peter’s doubting moment because he looked down, because he became frightened, because he took his eyes off of Jesus.  But what we often fail to look at within this story and it’s evident in this painting is that Peter got out of the boat…but where were the rest of the disciples?  Where did they remain?  In the boat.  If we look real closely they are way off in the foreground standing in the boat safe and sound but did they believe as Peter had?  Did they climb out of the boat with him?  No.  

Another thing that really hits home to me that is portrayed in this painting is the juxtaposition of his friends and peers in the boat as opposed to where Peter is located.  No, not just because of their doubt but because of their distance.  When Peter needed his friends and his peers the most they were too far away to help him.  He was well out of their reach to throw any kind of life saving device towards his sinking soul.  As I stare into this painting I begin to understand something that I didn’t before.  Perhaps I knew it to be true, but only in the back of my mind.  Here’s the truth:  Our friends, comrades in arms, loved ones and peers cannot save us all of the time.  There are times when faith takes us out further than perhaps others are willing or called to go.  Faith takes us into deeper waters where we have to find out for ourselves that not only is our strength not enough but our faith must be increased so that Jesus can save us.  It’s not about being better than our friends or our loved ones, it’s not about being more holy but God calls each of us to different waters.  So when we step out of our boats as Peter did we will find ourselves at times to be all alone on those waters without the support of other believers near us.  

Staring again at this painting I am struck by how the painter illustrates the expression that Jesus has on his face.  If someone lets you down what might your expression be? One of disappointment?  One of anger?  One of dismay?  To me, Jesus doesn’t seem to have any of these expressions on His face.  Instead He appears concerned, lovely so as He stoops down to pluck Peter from the depths.  Notice too that Jesus doesn’t grasp onto Peter’s slipper, wet fingers.  Instead He grasps Peter by the wrist.  What this says to me is that Jesus knows.  He knows that Peter can’t pull himself up out of these circumstances.  He knows that Peter’s strength have given way to doubt, shock and fear.  Jesus knows and so He pulls Peter up by his wrist and in so saying ‘My strength is enough, let me be your salvation’.  

I am Peter in the waters from time to time.  I am being choked by the lapping waters as I gasp for another breath.  I am given over to fears and doubts and I cannot save myself.  I look for my friends and for my peers but they are too far from me.  Yet Jesus is there willing and able to rescue me…again.  He grasps onto my wrist and says to me ‘My love, my strength, my courage, my grace, my hope…is enough!’  

Today I don’t know what kind of waters you’re walking on in faith, but I do know one thing Jesus is there!  Though our faith may take us out deeper than we’ve ever gone before, though we find it difficult or impossible to walk alone…Jesus is there!  Trust Him today!  Trust His strength.  Trust that He will never abandon you or be too far away to rescue you.  When you find yourself far from the saving mercies of other Christians, look up and find the One who has paid it all grasping onto your wrist and saving you through His strength and grace. 



“Anything to Declare?”

You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right.”  – Anne Lamott

 “There’s a luggage limit to every passenger on a flight. The same rules apply to your life. You must eliminate some baggage before you can fly.”  – Rosalind Johnson  


Do you have anything to declare?”  This is commonly heard at international airports as a traveler, sometimes weary, enters their destination.  It’s a question that must be asked for safety and security purposes that I think begs answering in our lives as well.  I’ve never received a degree in counseling or psychology, but I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes when we enter the present moment which is the doorway to the future we often are still carrying baggage from the past that prohibits us from entering and from moving on.  Baggage, which is anger, regret, hurts, fears, scars (emotional & physical) can seriously limit us and that of the potential for personal and spiritual growth if we continue to carry them with us. 


Jesus even alluded to these types of burdens when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

What is Jesus saying here?  He is telling us to let go of our baggage!  He is saying if you learn from me you will understand that you don’t have to carry this heavy burden any longer, my way is lighter and it will free you of your past, your baggage, your worries and fears.  Jesus says to us in this passage that we ought to let go of it all…it doesn’t matter anymore…we can be free!  Wouldn’t you like to forget some things about your past?  Wouldn’t you like to let go of burdens that you’ve carried around with you for far too long?   We were never meant to heap these worries, regrets and scars around with us for the rest of our lives!  That was not God’s plan for us.  Sure from time to time we have screwed up.  Sure from time to time others have hurt us so very deeply.  Sure from time to time we find it difficult to forgive that one person who broke our heart or betrayed us…yet that’s precisely what Jesus is asking us to do.  He wants us to leave our past behind.  He wants us to lay it down at His feet and for us to allow Him to help us. 

I don’t presume to understand how God’s grace works, but I do know that it does.  By faith, daily I must once again surrender my past to Him.  I know that from time to time that even Satan will try and remind me of those things from my past.  He will try to discourage me and persuade me that I really haven’t changed…and yet when I seek the Lord, when I read His word God shows me just how far I’ve come.  The same is true for you as well.  You can let go.  You will be free.  The answers to healing your past and restoring your future lies with the One that made you, not the ones that have hurt you, or the situations that you fiercely regret.   

The Lord is asking us today; “Do you have anything to declare?”  If we are wise we will declare everything to Him, and allow Him to restore our present and future by letting go of the baggage that weighs us down and holds us back.  Don’t let your past dictate where you go today or tomorrow!  You and I can be free…but first we must confront and let go of the baggage. 

There’s an old prayer chorus our church used to sing and it goes like this:

“Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary, Burdens are lifted at Calvary…Jesus is very near!”       Jesus wants to be near to you today, He wants to lift your burdens, your baggage from you…will you let Him?


Lord I have been carrying around this baggage from my past for far too long and it is weighing me down.  This baggage is holding me back from growing in your grace.  Help me to surrender it all to you today!  I know that it may not happen all at once, but grant me your strength to surrender it all to you!  I want to learn from you, I want that freedom that only you can offer.  Thank you Lord for guiding me and for being here with me each step of the way.  –Amen.

The Sentinel (Poem)

His mother,

Like a sentinel

Watches over him

Catching each breath

With her eyes

Never growing weary

of seeing him sleep…

each inflation of the lungs

and exhaling only to repeat again-

a gift, a treasured hope!

With wings unfurled,

alabaster gleaming

In the soft moonlit room,

So that while the darkness

creeps and leans in

with its shadows

she knows how to pull

him in and hold him close


There will be no rest

this night as the sentinel

watches, waits, anticipates

never closing her eyes

for but a second,

lending all of her strength

to the dreaming toddler

at her side.

Such love.

An example, a reflected

beauty from the heavens…

As if God himself were there

Holding fast to the night,

holding shadows and its

Darkness away…

A sentinel, a rock

a safe harbor for those

seeking refuge in the darkness. 


Burn the Ships!



The smell of smoke fills the nostrils and tears up the eyes.  The view on the beach is disturbing, the ships are on fire as the smoke coats the air and blocks out the sun at mid-day.  A sense of panic strikes at the heart of the sailors now marooned on this foreign soil.  Soon, realization will set in.  To find their way home, they have to move forward. 


Infamous conquistador Hernando Corte’s is well known for his brutality when conquering and claiming the Aztec lands for Spain.  He will forever go down in the annals of history as a conqueror that nearly wiped out an entire civilization in his day, but there is one saving act of leadership that begs to be examined.  When Cortes’ ships landed in the new world, to prevent mutiny he ordered his ships burned and sunk.  Imagine for a second being a sailor on one of those vessels and upon landing in this foreign environment your leader burns the only mode of transportation home.  Your world comes crashing in, and the only way home is forward without retreat.  It’s forward and never backward.


In a very practical sense, we ought to consider burning the vessels of doubt that reside within our faith in God.  These modes of transportation will only move us backwards into our old sinful lives instead of transporting us forward into a deeper relationship with our Father in Heaven.   Burning the ships of doubt has a motivational value that boldly declares that our purpose and our faith is all or nothing.   As an Ambassador for Christ in this world, there is no escape route or exit plan to abandon the cause of Christ!  We are either all or nothing; doubt can’t exist in the same place as our faith. 


If we have doubt and fear present, perhaps it’s time to burn the ships.  One might argue that fear is a part of our faith, rightly so…but it ought to be the fear (reverence) of the Lord not the fear of what the world might do to us within this cause for Christ!  These two types of fear are different.  Doubt on the other hand is something Jesus even confronts His disciples on… “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 8:26)   


Burn the ships…move forward in your faith and trust in the Lord for guidance, protection and strength!  He will never leave us or forsake us! (Deut. 31:6) 


Early Morning Fears

It’s five o clock in the morning

a small pajamaed body

creeps into our bed

silent as a shadow

shaking like a leaf

in the fall

dreams had turned

and now he churns

next to me,

breathing heavy on my neck

heating these old bones

forgetting how it used to be

when everything is possible

and nothing too hard to fathom

it’s five o clock in the morning

and we wake to encompass

our young soul with love

to help him brave through

the nightmares of tomorrow

…this too shall pass.

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