In Order To Truly Love, We need this….

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” -Philippians‬ ‭2:5‬ ‭

Do you remember the golden rule?
Perhaps your parents taught you this principle of treating others the way that you want to be treated.

So how’s it going with that?
Especially when someone pushes all your buttons?
When someone cuts you off in traffic.
When someone talks down to you in a condescending way…

Then this golden rule becomes so much harder doesn’t it?
It is much, much easier to treat people nicely when they treat you nicely, but when they don’t all bets are off.

Let’s add other believers to this…
Isn’t it interesting that sometimes the hardest people to love…(now get this) – are other Christians. Why is that? Aren’t we working for the same cause? Aren’t we all loving Jesus? So why is it so hard to love other Christ-followers sometimes? Could it be that we all have some sort of idea how to best serve Jesus and if some other believe has a different view then watch out. You see, we sometimes think that our way of worshipping or serving Jesus is the only way and so we protect that methodology to the point that it (not Christ) becomes sacred. And so we fight tooth and nail for our method of service and worship instead of coming together in unity and working in our diverse worship and adoration of Jesus.

How do we change our mindset?
Could it be that the walls that need to come down in our churches and in our Christian world view has to do more with the battle of our minds and preconceived notions of what honors God in our practices? Could it be any more simple that this: That we simply love…others…with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts” involved? What would the Church look like if Christians lived and loved out Philippians 2:5 in the real world?

What is the mindset of Christ?

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭‬

Jesus’ love and mindset was to disciple those around Him and He was willing, more than willing to lay down His life for those He called friend. And He calls all those who would seek Him – ‘Friend’.

Does our love for others resemble Christ’s love? Christ’s mindset?
Do we take this ‘golden rule’ to the next level in our relationships with those around us?

The Cold Hard Truth:
There will be those Christians we may not agree with.
We might find that our personalities, hobbies, likes and dislikes are vastly different…BUT…can we love them and have the same mindset as that of Christ. Can we love them regardless, or in spite of all of that? What we might find is that in the process of seeking the very mindset of Christ, in our every day life – we are given the very heart and love of Christ to love them more deeply and more genuinely.

May our relationships and the way we love others be the very mindset as that of Christ’s.

Something more to ponder today.
Blessings on you today!

Dear Salvation Army, Is It Just ‘Busy’ Work?

It is a question I have often asked myself.
Something I’ve pondered.
Waged war with.
Chewed on until my jaws ache.

Have I (personally speaking) focused too much on the ‘busy’ work instead of the priorities of salvation? Am I spending so much time doing the mundane, the time consuming, soul-sucking tasks that offer no vital substance to life?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not viewing certain tasks as beneath me. I am, instead, uncovering something that I feel has been convicting to me…and perhaps it has been revealed to you as well by the Holy Spirit.

We, as an Army, have grown far beyond a movement birthed out of the ashes and smoke the industrial era. This movement has grown arms and legs in order to meet human needs in Jesus’ name. But with that growth, it becomes inevitable that we develop not so good traits as well. Over working ourselves. Demanding more and more income to support bloating projects. Straining for every ounce of local and federal funding sources. Funds are, of course vital to our cause, but there is a danger here: We might become tempted, in our busyness to trust less in the provision of God and trust more in our own efforts, our own donors, our own coffers.

Have we allowed busy work to shape our faith?
Have we entered into simply trusting in the next financial campaign instead of diligently seeking out what God would have us do? I pray this is never the case!

I am certainly not negating hard work, I am simply pondering whether in the midst of our hard work we have stopped looking to the Author of all things in exchange for the things He has created? Instead of commanding time, time is commanding us. In a very real sense have we lost our first love and replaced it with busy work?

I understand that we mustn’t grow tired of doing Good (Galatians 6:9)
But there should be moments of reflect that we do in order to be brought back to our first love and first priority – Loving God. THEN we are able to reach out and offer our soup, soap and salvation.

So how do we avoid making what we do just ‘Busy Work’?

3 Ways to Avoid The Trap of Busy Work:

1) Practicing the Presence of God Daily (Even moment by moment)
Brother Lawrence was right – we need to get into the practice of communing with the presence of God moment by moment. We need to fellowship with our Creator during the most trying of tasks to the most mundane of them. When we open up our lives and everything in them to God, we begin to share our experiences with Him. We are inviting Him to participate in them with us. Just because we have to do required mundane tasks doesn’t mean that it is busy work. ‘Busy work’ is done when we have no purpose, no mission or no aim. Busy work leads no one to Christ, consumes all our time and offers nothing in spiritual nourishment. When we enter into God’s presence throughout our day, we begin to eliminate the busy work. When we ask Him to commune with us, we begin to see what truly matters and life (and tasks) are given purpose once again. Why? We because we are not living for ourselves, our own hard work, our own ambitions, our own understanding…we are now dying to self, dying to corporate ladder climbing, dying to the search for approval and acceptance of others. Instead, we are living a new created life born out of holiness and the desire to be selfless.

2) Asking the question “Why”?
When we find ourselves caught in the busyness trap, we need to begin to asked questions. Like, “why am I doing what I am currently doing”. “Is this task or habit really what I should be doing?” “What is this contributing to the Kingdom building process?” Why do I catch myself falling into this ‘busyness’ trap again and again?

Habits are hard to break, and I believe busy work can be one of these bad habits that needs to be broken. We all are given time to do the necessary reports, chores, tasks…yet how often do we catch ourselves staring blankly at a computer screen? How often do we labor away at things that don’t really matter? I’m not saying we don’t do them, I am saying that perhaps we place too much emphasis on them. We give them too much importance and so our time gets eaten up in the non-Kingdom building habits.

There comes a point where we must look up.
Where we see where God desires us to go. Perhaps it is to talk to that person in the Social Services waiting room. Maybe it is to go and visit corps members, sit with a person that needs a friend, or spend a few solitary moments in the chapel praying. Are we looking up? Or do we go about our day with our heads down and buried in our computers, meanwhile making all of our tasks and duties “busy work”?
Why?

3) Connect with others.
I have mentioned this already in the second point…but it begs saying again: we MUST connect with other people (and not just on social media). Look people in the eyes. Really listen to their needs. Hear the hurt. See the longing for fellowship. Be a light to someone in need. Winning the world of Jesus begins with one or two people. If we aren’t reaching people for Christ what is the point of calling our selves an army of salvation?

When we realign ourselves with our first love and, in turn, pour that love out on others, we will have eliminated all ‘busy work’? How?
By turning each moment and each task into an opportunity to serve God. When we change our perspective and our priorities, we reorient our mission and purpose to the place it should have been all along.

Dear Salvation Army…is there ‘busy work’ taking place in your ministry right now?
Do you find yourself missing the mark and feeling unfulfilled in your calling?
Perhaps you must look up.
Perhaps a reprioritizing of life needs to take place.
Perhaps a rededication, a recommitment, a reigniting of the heart is in order.

Busy work happens to all of us…but we mustn’t remain there, we need to get up and move.

Something more for our Army to ponder today.

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.

Fear the Walking Faith…It’s a journey!

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Oh how our faith can waver sometimes.
It seems that the gusting of a slight breeze of discord or worry can shake our quivering feet of faith.

Have you ever come to a moment of realization that your faith is not as deep as you once thought it was? We all encounter times, while on this journey, where the feel as though we have entered into the desert and we are found lacking in our resolve and fortitude. This journey will take us into places that require us to dig a little deeper and to endure the dry and thirsty places – where we find ourselves questioning everything and reaching further for God…who seems to have gone silent.

Have you been to this place?

I remember when I first learned to swim.
My parents would take me into the deeper part of the waters where my feet couldn’t touch and then let go of me, and as they let go of me they step back out of my reach. I remember there was a momentary panic. The saving hands were no longer on me and I found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters. I remember having to reach out my arms while kicking my feet so that I could reach the safety again. As I did this, without realizing, I began to swim by myself for the first time.

My intentions were not to swim. My intention was to reach the safe arms of my parents who were just out of reach.

There is growth within the tension and fear.
Growth that can only take place when we are left to our own devices.
Growth that can only transpire within the turmoil and desert places of our faith journey.

It is as if God steps back from us, and we are faced with the seemingly terrifying notion that we must step into the deep alone. The truth is that we are most certainly not alone, but rather there is growth that is only found in desert. And so we step out, unsure of ourselves…unsure if we can reach those safe arms of Christ again.

Remember Peter on the waters before Jesus?
He is asked to step out into a turbulent, uncertain space.
Peter takes a couple of steps, loses sight of the arms of Christ and begins to sink.
He takes his eyes off of Jesus.
He considers the impossibilities of such a journey.
He must have recalled his inability to do this feat, and as the doubt sinks in so does Peter.

We often chastise Peter for his lack of faith.
We often sermonize this passage to implicate the lack of resolve that ‘the Rock’ had…
But where were the other disciples?
Do we read about their steps of faith on the waters? No.
They were still in the boat watching it all go down.

We have to get out of our boats.
We will encounter dry and thirsty times in our faith journey.
It will feel as if we are all alone out in the wilderness, but we are not alone.
God steps back and watches us within the tension of deeper waters.
And it is within those deeper spaces that we grow.
It is through perseverance that our character and the very image of Christ becomes clearer in us.

Some have turned back and returned to the safe places.
Some have given up because they have felt abandoned.
Others have persevered and they have grown.
The Lord desires all of us to deepen our faith, and so these times of dryness should be seen as opportunities to grow up into this amazing faith.

Being like Jesus isn’t easy.
It takes determination and desire on our part.
Are you prepared to allow God to deepen your faith?
Is it your desire to get off of spiritual baby formula and begin to feast on more sustainable spiritual nourishment?

Take that next step…don’t be afraid, He’s got you, and He isn’t far from you right now!

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, The Fish-Bowl Effect…

Dear Salvation Army, are we fooling ourselves?
Are we seeing one thing within our ivory towers while the reality looks quite different?

Please don’t take offense.
I mean no disrespect.
I just wonder if there are times that we are disconnected from how things truly are as opposed to how we perceive them to be.

It’s like the notion of missing the mark of evangelism & missions…It is like aiming for the lost with a harpoon when what you needed was a loving hug and a warm cup of coffee. Or perhaps, there is this grandiose idea of what success will look like (we envision a mega church with people all neatly lined up trying to get in) when in reality it is meeting with that single mother and ensuring she has enough to feed her family and she takes the leap of coming to church on a Sunday morning.

Do we miss the mark because our notion of successful mission has been aligned with a faulty or unrealistic sense of who we are serving and what they need? It can become that illustration of insanity, ever endeavoring to do the same thing over and over again, only to realize that it hasn’t worked in thirty years.

Perhaps we need to wake up.
I fear we have become too insulated in our own fishbowls, be it the corps, divisional headquarters, territorial headquarters or beyond. We cannot sit in our offices and expect the people to come to us. Yes, our branding is recognizable, but that doesn’t mean that we become lazy in our planning and in the reaching for the lost, hurting and oppressed. We cannot afford to sit in our fishbowls. We cannot become complacent, overly busy with interior paperwork, when outside in our communities families and individuals need to see the hope that the Holy Spirit is prodding us to give because we serve more than just an Army, we serve the Lord first and foremost.

Dear Salvation Army,
I am fearful that we have lost our way, because of mission drift.
I am fearful that leaders from every rank have forgotten what it means to have a heart to God and a hand to man. This is a broad brushstroke, not aimed at offending, but perhaps prodding those who need it. There are many, many saints in our Army. I wish to recognize that as fact, may we ever endeavor to emulate their great faith!

Lastly, we cannot program our army to death.
We cannot course correct without first dispelling the faulty realities that have gotten us to this point.

Questions to Ponder:
What fishbowls do we need to get out of today?
Do we truly know the communities and people that we have been commissioned to minister to?
Have we prayed about our mission and vision for the lost in our areas of influence? (Not all of these places will look the same, or require the same kinds of ministry tools to reach the lost and disciple the faithful).
How can we (I) encourage 1 person today (maybe more, but start with just one)?
Can we pray that God would reveal to us the hindrances and hang ups in our lives right now that prevent us from having a greater impact on the Kingdom in His name?

As I sit here and write this, I admittedly have first considered the fishbowls that I have placed myself in. No, this has nothing to do with appointments or rank, but as a follower of Christ there are walls that I have constructed that have not been ordained by Him. Constructs that insulate my selfish heart and profit nothing for the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps you can relate, dear Soldier. I believe that if we do not first dispel these walls and climb out of our fishbowls, so too will our impact for the Kingdom be limited.

Can we identify these fishbowls?
Are we prepared to climb out of them?

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

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

Dear Salvation Army, Why The Holiness Movement is Dead…

As with many of these articles, hear me out before you tell me how outraged you are that I would say such a thing.
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Let me start by asking you four questions: 
1.  What is your Sunday service called?  Is it called a Holiness Meeting or “Worship Service” (or perhaps even Church Service)?
2.  Is Holiness lived and taught in your corps?
3.  Is Holiness a focal point of your corps and it’s ministries?
4.  What is the thrust of your local mission in your corps/appointment?  Is Holiness a portion of this?
officers
If you can’t honestly say “Yes” to these questions, then perhaps we ought to see where the grave of holiness is located in your building.  The Salvation Army was a large part of the Holiness Movement.  I do not believe that our numeric and spiritual growth stemmed from obedient officers or because we had a “tighter” core group of leaders in our Army world, instead I believe we as an Army, recognized and believed in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.  I think the crux of our present age is that fewer and fewer soldiers have this realization any longer.  Dare I say this is true for Officer and Soldiers in the corps.  I am not questioning our salvation, for I think this remains intact, but I am questioning whether or not we believe in an Almighty God who still performs miracles in the worst of sinners?
Mercy
Brother and Sisters in Christ, we cannot live and die by our seeker’s registry.  This is a tremendous indication of changed lives, but it MUST not stop there.  We ought not to simply celebrate the statistical measure of our seekers at the mercy seat.  We ought to be discipling those newly saved souls.  This is where I believe the Army has fallen short and is in dire need of changing.  There has to be more than just converting people to Christ…once they get up from the mercy seat what do we do with them?  Do we have measures of accountability?  Do we have saints who can mentor and disciple them?  Salvation at the altar is only the beginning!!

(Let me also interject for a moment that statistics can become a poor surrogate for a disengaged style of leadership.  What I mean by this is, statistics by themselves can be a helpful tool when used correctly, but a harmful tool when context is not considered).

I digress…

The Holiness Movement is dead because we have worshiped at the church of numbers and figures instead of at the altar of transformation and grace.  We have lost our movement and exchanged it for a growing organization dependent upon successful programming and business operations.   Some of this cannot be helped.  A growing Army requires more guidelines and policies to govern its structure, but at the same time I fear we have sacrificed our very soul in an effort to remain our country’s top charity or top nonprofit…but perhaps we have lost something much more vital within our DNA as an Army of Salvation.

The Holiness Movement is dead because we have exchanged The Holy Spirit’s leading at times for ambition, power and dollar signs.  Many of our sacred spaces have been relegated to tiny chapels with no vision for growing souls and more vision for feeding stomachs.  Please don’t misunderstand me, we do indeed reach lives for Christ by first feeding and clothing people, but what if we have become so focused on the feeding and clothing people that we have neglected the salvation?  What if we have, in essence, told Jesus to wait in the vacant chapel while we filled the box of food for families?  What if we have forgotten our hearts to God while we have been reaching out to man?

A Resurrection? resurrect
I pray that we can bring the dead back to life!
I pray that we would wake up and recognize the deep need of a Holiness Army once more. I pray that we would wake up and recognize that in all of our strength and power and might we are nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading.   In my American slang, perhaps we have “grown too big for our britches” and in our pride and even arrogance we have begun to lead ourselves instead of allow the Holy Spirit to lead us.
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Make no mistake, the enemy, The Father of lies is perfectly content in watching us self-destruct in our polarizing visions and missions and efforts.  Satan would celebrate in our death as a movement in exchange for another social service organization or social club.  But with God all things are possible!  With His power we can come to life again in the places of dormant holiness and floundering mission.  We do not need more meetings to do this.  We do not need more programs to institute this.  What we need are soldiers willing to commit to prayer and discipleship.  We need soldiers committed to living lives of holiness, which is very contrary to the society around us today!  We need an Army mobilizing on Holiness and not just a march in uniforms.  There has to be an inward change before we can externally represent His presence in the streets!!

Lord resurrect our Army!
Resurrect this passion in me!
I want to be Your reflection
Resurrect your presence in me!

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
Now, tell us what YOU think, leave your comments, questions and snide remarks below.

**Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are that of the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.**

Spiritual Growth – A Lawnmower Theology

What do you mean by “Lawnmower theology”?  you might be asking…let me first tell you a story.

I was mowing the grass the other day.
I greatly enjoy mowing, it’s cathartic for me and it gives me time to think.
We just got a new lawnmower and I had to put it together before using it.
So I begin by putting the arm onto the mower body and attaching the pull lever to the extended arm.  Then I put the nuts and bolts into the connector holes at the bottom of the arm that actually attaches to the base of the mower.  Long story short, I merely tightened them with my fingers and did not use the tool needed to tighten it fully – I’m impatient like that sometimes.

I was really anxious to start up the new mower and get to mowing our neglected backyard.  So I start it up for the first time, and it just purrs – it was wonderful (I know I’m lawnmower nerd).   I begin to make my way around the yard, meticulously ensuring I don’t miss any wayward grass as I pass with the new machine.  It was really starting to look good…and then it happened – the arm that I had attached with the nuts and bolts came loose.   I had not tightened it enough and through the constant jostling and vibration of the engine, one of the bolts had come loose and was no where to be seen.   I looked aroundbolts in the tall grass and in places I had already mowed, I couldn’t find it anywhere – it was gone, *poof* vanished.   I searched for another five minutes only to recognize that in my haste to get the job finished, I had lost a crucial component that held everything together.  I had to make a run to the hardware store and purchase a new bolt and nut – only this time I used the appropriate tool (not my fingers) to tighten the bolt into place.   Now, it’s not going anywhere!

Why do you I tell you this tale?
What’s the point?
I think our Spiritual Growth can be a lot like this lawnmower of mine; or rather, how we put this “Christian life” together.  We are often impatient with ourselves and with God.  We want to just get out there and live for him, and so we take shortcuts.  I took a shortcut wayin assembling my spanking new lawnmower – I thought I had tightened everything down good enough only to discover I had misjudged my strength and the terrain around me.  Perhaps in our lives this rings true too.  We get ahead of ourselves.  We cut corners and take shortcuts because we think we already know it all.  We don’t take the time as we should in our Spiritual lives and explore the spiritual disciplines necessary for long-term spiritual growth and success.  Instead we settle for the quick fix.  We go to a service here or there and we think it’s enough – yet the things that hold our “Christian” lives together isn’t enough, and it’s certainly not strong enough either.

Why do we think we know better than God knows us?
Why is it that we become impatient with God when He seems to take a long time?
Do you get impatient with Him?  I am embarrassed to say this, but I do sometimes.
I don’t always take the time I know I need with Him.
Sometimes I do all of the talking and I hardly ever hear what He has to say to me.
And so I get out there in life and I plod ahead full-steam only to realize I’m not as put together as I thought I was.  I find that I, all too easily fall apart – because I didn’t take the time to truly tighten things down in my prayer life, or my faith walk.  Sometimes I’m a mess…and it’s all my fault.

Have you been there?
Are you there right now?
I have to confess I’ve been there more times than I care to admit.
I’ve run so far ahead of God only to fall apart.
It’s in those moments that I realize just how much I need Him.
It’s also very humbling to know that I still have much work to be done within my life.
There are perhaps a few missing nuts and bolts that have to be replaced by God – but I have to be willing to let Him work on me.  It’s painful sometimes to admit this.
It’s embarrassing to recognize that although I’ve been a Christian most of my life – I still need help, I still need work, I still fall apart from time to time.

Have you been running ahead of God in your life?  hs
Perhaps you recognize right now that there are pieces missing in your life.  That somewhere along the way you have taken a shortcut and you really aren’t as “put together” as you want everyone to think you are.   The Holy Spirit still has work to do with us!  He longs for us to expose those missing pieces, those broken pieces, the dirty old life that still remains.  He wants us to surrender it all to Him.   It won’t be easy – but in the long run we will be made whole without any shortcuts or missing pieces.  He has something much better in store for us – if we allow Him complete access to us daily, even moment by moment.

So how about it?
Are you ready to put the lawnmower together the right way this time?

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvationists, The Mercy Seat

The hope of the Army is in the penitent form.  As soon as that goes out of use, we go out” (General Albert Orsborn)

We call it the Mercy Seat, others call it the Penitent Form, still others call it the Altar.
Why is it there?
What is it’s purpose?
Is it still valid and needed today?

Perhaps these are just a few questions that you’ve wondered about as you have participated in a Salvation Army service or meeting.   Some have, perhaps, been soldiers for years and never quite understood why we do what we do when it comes time for the “altar call” or “time of response”.

Is this practice outdated or is it still useful?
What is the biblical understanding of the “mercy seat”?

I believe Major ViJay Boda puts it rather succinctly; ”

“The International Spiritual Life Commission affirmed to the whole Army world that the mercy seat in Salvation Army meetings symbolises God’s unremitting call to his people to meet with him. It is not only a place for repentance and forgiveness, but also a place for communion and commitment. The report emphasises, ‘Here we may experience a deep awareness of God’s abundant grace and claim his boundless salvation.’

Encouraging the use of the mercy seat, the commission says, ‘The mercy seat may be used by any one, at any time, and particularly in Army meetings when, in response to the proclaimed word, all are invited to share loving and humble communion with the Lord.”

altar.jpgThis is a good explanation, and perhaps some of us are good at explaining this to new comers or new soldiers…but sometimes I think we need a refresher course.  We need to break old patterns and old molds in order to better understand what we are doing at the Mercy Seat or why we have these moments of commitment at all.

Biblically speaking, the Mercy Seat is first mentioned in connection with the Ark of the Covenant.  It is the “kapporet“, or the “atonement piece”.  Later it was the ornate golden cover to the ark with two cherub corners.  Imagine that, the “atonement piece” covers the opening to the very presence of God.

altar2Symbolically speaking, Jesus became our once for all- atonement piece – our mercy seat.  His blood makes us clean, and his provenient grace cancels our debts/sin.  When we kneel at this place of repentance that we call the Altar, or Penitent Form, or Mercy Seat, we are essentially placing our sins on Christ.  We lay them down, and in so doing, we are invited to pick up new clothes, a new life, this unmerited grace and forgiveness that Christ has prepared for us in His death and resurrection.

This Mercy Seat can be a sacred place.
We can kneel upon it in our corps buildings during Holiness meetings, we can find it at special events where seats have been turned around waiting for those willing to repent or seek reconciliation.  These sacred spaces are not necessarily holy in and of themselves.  They are just structures, constructed with human hands, but purposed for Divine encounters.

altar1BUT WAIT… 
The Mercy Seat is so much more than a specific place.
We, being the very essence and the body of Christ, now have access to this mercy seat anywhere at anytime and anyplace.  No, it’s not some new application found on our cellular devices or on our computers.  This Mercy Seat is never far from us, even when we find ourselves at home or bedridden with illness – it is there!   This Mercy Seat is found in our hearts.  When we receive Christ at a place of forgiveness and new life, such as the Altar, we also receive the blessing of His Holy Presence.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us.  Not in some sort of alien “body snatchers” way, but rather in a Creator meets and communes with Creation sort of way.  With His presence comes the mercy seat of our hearts, where we can come at any time before Him to confess, commune and grow in Christ’s image.

Samuel Logan Brengle once said, “I have carried a penitent form (mercy seat) around in my heart half a century or more. And if there is ever any need, I constantly fly to thee.
altar3
1 Mercy Seat – Many Uses (Not Just A Place For Sinners!!!)
Before I close this topic  today, (honestly, this is a primer for further discussion), I would be remiss not to mentioned  that the Mercy Seat is SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PLACE FOR SINNERS.  It takes real courage sometimes to come before the ecclesia (body of believers – A.K.A. The Church) and kneel at the Altar.   Sometimes many worry about what others might think or say (Shame on anyone who would say anything towards a brother or sister penitent before the Lord).  Sometimes this erroneous thought that keeps on circulating spoken or unspoken – is that once one has gone to the Altar they shouldn’t have to go back anymore.  Nothing could be further from the truth!!

If one of our more esteemed first theologians (Brengle) went to his Mercy Seat frequently, how much more do we still need it in our lives?

The Mercy Seat still beckons us to:
-Come and Reconnect with our Savior.
-Come and bring petitions and prayers as intercessors.
-Come and cast our  prayers of thanksgivings to Him.
-Come and seek forgiveness again.
-Come and find reconciliation and re-ignition.
-Come and pour out those deeply secret spaces of our hearts before the Holy Spirit who has been prodding us to let Him in.
-Come to surrender, or surrender again.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs encouragement and assurance.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs a friend.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who desires new life and is sick of sin.

So is the Mercy Seat pointless in our modern, sophisticated age?
Yes, it’s as pointless as the Son of God stepping down out of heaven and taking our sins upon himself…if that is truly pointless – then so are our lives.

No, in fact the Mercy Seat is so much more than just a kneeling place for sinners or saints…it is the exhalation of sin and in the very same moment, the inhalation of salvation, new life and holiness.  It ought to be perpetuated, preached on, and emphasized over and over again – with clarity, sincerity and truth.

For more reading on this topic check out another post: Is Your Mercy Seat Broken?

Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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