My Prayer (A Poem)

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Father,

Let my hands, marred and filthy

Be cleansed, purified and true

So that I can reach a world that’s dying

And let them find you.

 

Spirit,

Let this tongue, course and violent

Touch the coals from your holy fire

So that I might speak of truth

And love might penetrate this liar.

 

Jesus,

Let my heart, selfish and vain

Beat for the hurting and the lost

So that, with your power and might

Your blood might drown the cost

 

Holiness,

What my heart should love and fear

Christlikeness, breaking sin’s dark mold

This body, soul and mind brought low

So that I, in Christ, a servant…may be bold.  

Joy & Hope…Retrain the Brain.

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Two simple words.  Yet all too the often these words fail to connect with humanity.  All too often hate and sorrow are life’s constant companion.  All too often if joy is captured at all it is but a brief glimpse, a blink of the eye…and then it’s gone.

How can we capture and experience true joy and hope?  How can life become so much more potent and alive?  It begins with a climb up a sheer rock face.  Not a real climb mind you, but a journey within one’s thoughts and attitudes.  This climb takes us from where we are to a place above in which we train our minds and prepare our thoughts.  Where we change the thought patterns within our lives and attempt to see life around us as we have never seen it before.

This isn’t some new age philosophy here either.  We aren’t attempting to reach within ourselves, and recognizing our bad habits within our own thoughts.  We face the blatant behaviors and poor choices.  We confront the darkness that resides within our minds.  This is the place where hatred, selfishness, sadness, and greed reside.  Our minds truly are a battle field.  We wage a war that is mostly unseen.  It may sound mystical but in reality where do our actions come from?  -Our thoughts.  Where do those choices come from which hurt others, hurt ourselves and lead us into deeper alleys of sadness?  -Our thoughts.

What would happen, if we could change this pattern of thinking?  What would happen if we could redirect our thinking and what we think on?  What would happen is that we could begin to experience joy and hope not just in mere fragments but in every instance.

So how do we do this?  How do we capture our thoughts and conquer these dark patterns?

1. Seek Guidance:

Understand that we have been created by God and that His fellowship with us can and will change and transform us.  This isn’t some sort of dogma we chant or words we use to line up the masses all straight and uniform in organized religion either.  This is a very personal and intimate relationship that God desires from each of us.  When He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins He made a way for that relationship to be restored once and for all.  So when we confess our dark patterns to Him and accept His Son, Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives we are accepting a better path.

This relationship offers guidance to a better way of living too.  Do you know that followers of Jesus were once called ‘followers of The Way’?  This is truth for us today.  Because Jesus offers us a better way to live.  One that frees us from the bondages of sin and those dark patterns of thinking.

His guidance is available to us and is truly the only way by which we can truly conquer the unhealthy and dark patterns of thinking.  We begin this climb by asking for God’s guidance through prayer and supplication.  But don’t stop with just your words speaking repetitions and utterances…listen.

2. Listening:

Part of the conversation with anyone and even God is not only talking but listening.  This is where instruction and guidance can begin.  We need to prostrate ourselves before God and be available to listen…simply listen.  How else are we to hear from God if we do all of the talking?  Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God…” Be still…we are to stop and listen, to be still and hear.  Listening takes patience, silence from distractions and tuning into what God is saying to us.  This act is truly an act of personal worship in a very intimate setting.  It’s not some mystical mumbo jumbo that we do.  You may not audibly hear God speak to you, but within our hearts resides his voice…within our soul He longs to permanently take up reside.  He will speak to us in moments of silence and in moments of deep devotion.  But all too often we are so distracted by the world around us that we hardly tune in to hear what he would say to us.

3. Meditate:

Not in some Eastern philosophy sense, but rather meditate on the very words of God.  By that I mean read His words written for us in the Bible.  Study it.  Read the red letters of Jesus in the synoptic gospels.  Read what Paul instructs the early churches to do.  Understand what James has to say about the tongue in His book.  Study the Bible, don’t approach it as some task or arduous homework assignment either.  Do it out of love and devotion to God and the longing to live a healthier, holier life-style.

4.  Discipline yourself:

Not by flogging yourself or punishing the flesh, by any means…but by being disciplined in your daily routines and attitudes.  Be serious about wanting this joy and hope in your life.  When we seek His guidance and listen to His voice we begin to find peace and understanding.  We begin to want to spend more time with Him.  For some five minutes in prayer is very difficult, but if we discipline ourselves in regards to prayer we will slowly begin to find five minutes isn’t nearly enough time to talk with God.

2 Corinthians 10:5b says, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We we can make this climb out of our dark patterns of thought through God’s help, we will begin to understand this verse.  We can truly experience pure joy and hope because we have, through the power of the Holy Spirit, taken captive of every thought.  And we are in turn thinking within the realms of Joy and Hope.

Does this seem far fetched to you?  I hope it doesn’t because God does not want us to reside any longer in the darkness of our minds, but He wants us to surrender every nook and cranny of our body, soul and mind to Him.  When we are or have done so little by little we can begin to experience this joy and hope in every moment of our lives.

The Salvation Army: A Movement, not an Organization

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I was sitting in the cornet section of the band waiting for the seven measure rest to end and a thought hit me.  As the movement continued at a ‘pep band’ pace.  Each measure, counted out and played, sometimes correctly…sometimes not, we were moving to the grand finale of the piece.  The pinnacle of the march where each running melody and harmony made its double forte’d ending proclamation.  Our conductor described it as puzzle pieces being put together to form the melodies and responding harmonies all hurtling toward the last note.

What was the thought that hit me? 

Just as the march we were playing progressed along in its jovial tune, igniting feelings of joy and hope, so too our Army resembled this structure.  Even our mission statement proclaims this truth:  “THE SALVATION ARMY, AN INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT…” We are a movement and some of the attributes of a movement is that we progress to the grand finale.  For us this finale is the ultimate return of Jesus Christ!  But what about now, in the interim?  What are we to do?  Though the repeating melody, so to speak, of our mission is resounding loud and clear are we just playing the same Image(repeat)?

written in our Army’s history?  If we are to play the movement correctly as an Army, then we have to move forward not backward.  Let me preface this by affirming our very rich heritage first.  We have been so blessed by progressive leaders in our Army.  Those who have moved our Holiness theology along, those who have lead not by consensus but by conviction and the moving of the Holy Spirit.  These beginning leaders, and still many today, have or are leading by risking much!

Remember the parable of the talents?  Who were the servants who were rewarded in the end?  Those who risked much.  They were the ones who didn’t bury their talents in the dirt but spread them out and multiplied what was given to them.   There’s a very important spiritual lesson here for us as an Army as well.  Though we ought to relish and appreciate our rich heritage, we ought not seek to preserve some which have run their course while blindly ignoring areas of risk that are untried methodologies and practices.

You see, when we begin to insulate what we have already accomplished in the past and seek to preserve these we lose sight of the movement and replace it with an organization.

Do you know the definition of an Organization?  an administrative and functional structure (as a business or a political party); also : the personnel of such a structure.

Is it important to have some sort of structure?  Of course…but if our mission statement says we are a movement and yet we don’t move or progress we begin to lose our identity.  We ARE NOT first and foremost an ‘administrative structure’…we are a mission and movement for Christ!  When we become bogged down more by missional politics, policies and procedures instead of  progressing then we discover an identity crisis in our Army.

One of the biggest dangers in any Church or Movement is when we plateau and begin to have polarizing ideologies.  Movements are much easier to begin but when some of its mission begins to plateau statistically or fail in its effectiveness the danger is that the risks become less.  By that I mean since there has been much gained already, there will undoubtedly be  something lost within future risk taking in mission and evangelical program.

Wasn’t it General William Booth himself who said if a corps was not meeting minimum requirements they ought to close it immediately and move on?   And yet this isn’t happening today.  We continue to pour resources into failing appointments and preserve its structures instead of removing the dead weight of these failed missions.   In essence we have again reached an identity crisis.

Furthermore for non-profit tax purposes here in the United States we have incorporated all of our territorial headquarters and categorizing them as ‘organizations’…again I recognize the intent, but to what end does this take us?  It may seem like semantics here, but have we not then become an organization instead of a movement?  From our foundation as a movement I recognize that we will change and grow, but so too we ought to recognize the dangers of losing this original identity.

Learning from History:  War tactics –

In the American Revolutionary War, the Red Coats (British) fought within its traditional structure.     When they engaged an enemy they would line up and march forward rank and file.  Onto the battle field they would march with uniform and rifle in perfect symmetry.  Those from the thirteen colonies who were fighting the British began to understand that they couldn’t fight a conventional war against such a formidable army and expect to win.  So they devised a new means of engaging the enemy.  In essence they changed the rules of warfare.  They no longer lined up as the Red Coats did, instead they fought from the tree lines, in ambushes and in clever strategies.   It was most unconventional and yet it was very effective.

We are an organized movement based upon the military yes, but as we look to the future we must recognize that in order to survive and continue to be effective in these new generations that we have to adapt.  The rules of warfare have to change.  We fight among new territories and though the devil is using the same tried and truth methods to deceive humanity we have to engage and risk much in order to be effective on these battle fields.

As a movement we are progressing forward to that grand finale.  We mustn’t lose sight of our purpose and our mission.  We must continue to risk much in order to gain much.  And lastly we must learn to adapt if we are to have victory over the enemy!  If we don’t adapt as a movement and keep heading forward then I fear we face a long agonizing slow death as an Army.  This slow death will be paved with the discarded uniforms of those who have left our cause not because of their spiritual or moral failings but because the Army sought to preserve its structure and neglected to care for those who continue to fight the good fight.

Dare I say if we ever lose of the Holy Spirit’s leading within our holiness movement, we will cease to be and the enemy will have won a horrible victory at our expense.

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A Holiness for 1

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Holiness is often something Christians view as the Everest of the spiritual realm.  It is formidable, the price is steep, and many turn back within its clefts and craggy cliffs.  Why is this misnomer on holiness so prevalent?  Corps members whom I’ve spoken with tell me that holiness is impossible or just too hard…I am shocked when I hear them tell me this.  Commonly I will ask them why they think that holiness is impossible, and usually there will be those who respond by saying because to be holy you have to be perfect.  But is that correct?  Holiness is perfection?  I would have to say a resounding ‘no’! We are still sinners saved by grace, and ultimate perfection or total sanctification will only take place when we finally come face to face with Christ in Eternity.  But though we are still imperfect, the Holy Spirit is making us perfectly into the image of Christ if we allow Him to do so.

Holiness first and foremost is submitting to the will of God in every aspect of our lives.  We say to the Lord, “Not my will but Yours, and you can have all there is of me.”  Does this imply that we automatically become perfect?  Absolutely not.  We still struggle, we still ought to pray “Lord lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” Because the fact of the matter is we will still face temptation in this life.  Holiness isn’t about automatically living in perfection, but rather about walking in the footsteps of Jesus and allowing His Holy Spirit to transform you into the image of Christ in this life.  We reject the old sinful self, as well embrace the new creation which is Christ in us.

Another aspect of holiness that I feel we often get wrong is this notion that it’s a corporate holiness.  Meaning that holiness is first done as a body of Christ.  I think we get this backwards.  We have to first be transformed and sanctified individually before we are holy in corporate fellowship.  General Shaw Clifton once put it this way in reference to Samuel Logan Brengle:  “His (SLB) constant emphasis was upon personal holiness.  Now we hear much today about institutional holiness but I cannot help thinking sometimes that this misses the point.  There can be no institutional holiness without your personal holiness and mine.  Only then can institutional holiness flow through an organization.” (Select Writings, Clifton. pg.181)

So what does this holiness for one look like?

Like Daniel of old, do we have a prayer closet?  A place where we daily kneel before our Lord and pray and fellowship with Him?  These moments of solitary fellowship are vital to our personal holiness.  Do we allow Him the first fruits of our time, our talent and our treasure?  Is He included in everything that we do or do we often leave Him at home with our devotions or bible by the night stand?  I believe Brother Lawrence had it right as well, and let me take his ideology one step further.  We practice the presence of God in every moment of every day…is it possible?  Yes.  Difficult?  Of course!  But transforming holiness in our personal lives ought to be moment by moment within our day and not just during our devotions in the morning or evening.  Our fellowship with God on a moment by moment basis draws us closer to Him and to His very will for our lives.

These are sacred things should not to be trifled with or taken lightly.  If we, as His people, are truly serious about living holy lives and embracing this theology of holiness then, as difficult as it is, we ought to practice living within His presence on a moment by moment basis.  This is a holiness for one!  We invite Him into our thoughts, every corner of them.   The Holy Spirit will bring conviction when areas yet to be surrendered are brought into His light.  He will also provide affirmation to us when we are growing and on the right path.

When this intimate setting for one is preserved in us and our lives are His, then and only then will can we begin to look at the corporate body of Christ through the lens of holiness.

At the Construction Site:

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Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

 

When I was a child I used to enjoy watching construction workers build things.  I could sit for hours watching them work away at mixing concrete, hoisting support beams, laying rebar…it all fascinated me.  I longed to see the finished product, a completed project that took hours, even days to complete.  I would go by the construction site day after day on my way to school just to see how much progress they had made in the hours that I had been away.  I was invested in witnessing the completed project, though it wasn’t my house, I still wanted, I longed to see it finished.  

 

By the time the construction of the remodeled home was completed, the workers there knew me by name.  Why?  Because I wasn’t content in just watching, I wanted to know why and how they were doing any and every task.  I was insanely curious…and so I asked a lot of questions.  Luckily, the foreman (who must have had children of his own) was a patient man who didn’t mind giving me an answer from time to time.  He was competent and considerate of my age and so explained it as a parent would to a child; in simple terms.   He explained why they put wire mesh in with the concrete or why rebar was there at all…it would make the structure stronger and would last longer.  He also explained why the bubble on the level had to be in the middle so that the work they did would stand and not fall down because it was uneven.  I asked many questions and thankfully that foreman answered most of them with the patience of a saint. 

 

Why talk about this experience?  Why mention it? Am I just trying to relive my childhood?  Perhaps…but it’s more than that.  It makes me think of what kind of foundation I am laying in my own spiritual with God.  Many times in my life I have thought about those conversations with that foreman in the context of my spiritual journey with Christ.  Am I living a balanced life?  Have I continued to be firmly rooted in His word?  Is the foundation of my life what it should be?  Introspectively I have asked myself these questions many, many times.  I don’t say this in boasting, by any means, but a right relationship with God is that important to me.  Is it to you? 

 

Years later I tried my hand at building stuff…turns out I’m just not that gifted at construction with my hands.  But I will never forget those lessons that I learned as a child by simply passing by a construction site day after day on my way to and from school. 

 

How is your foundation?   Has it been reinforced with the rebar of fellowship with other Christians?  Are there cracks forming along the walls of your faith because of wear and tear and pressures of life?   At our conversion we align ourselves with Christ.  We accept His sacrifice on the cross for our sins and we essentially say God rebuild me.  Tear down the old, remove the dirty and broken, and start again.  In that process we gain new life, a new construction takes place and there is life on our spiritual property.  But here’s a big issue:  Many remain at the altars of their lives professing Christ and declaring “I’m a Christian”, but they never grow from there.  God expects us to mature in our faith.  He has provided us the best foundation in His son Jesus Christ, but we have to allow the Holy Spirit to begin the transformation within us.  We can’t remain baby Christians…or essentially just a foundation without a structure built on top.  God’s presence within us, which is the Holy Spirit, wants to develop in us a deeper, stable structure of maturity and faith. 

 

If your life needs some renovation, some rebuilding…will you allow God to begin that in you today?  He’s the best foreman for the job and He can be trusted to finish that construction of holiness in you!  The foundation is already firmly laid.  But without a strong, stable structure on top, which is holiness and spiritual maturity, we are still vulnerable and unstable in the temptations and elements of our old lives. 

 

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, thank you for your Son who made it possible for me to be redeemed, I ask now that you would continue in me Your work.  Transform me through the work of Your Holy Spirit, grant me the strength to address issues that still exist within my life that are yet remnants of my old ways.  Allow me wisdom and discernment to study your word and to apply it in my living day by day.   I want to be the creation you have intended for me.   Deliver me from sin and from temptation, as I know I must avoid their trappings in order to mature and to grow in Your grace.  May it be so in my life today.  Amen. 

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Fall on me (Poem)

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Let Your love fall on me

Precious Spirit fall on me

may Your strength my will supply

this is my heart’s cry 

Holy Spirit may your power

fall on me.  

Let your grace fall on me

through your eyes, others see

I give my heart, my life to fill 

come and guide, Spirit indwell

Holy Spirit come fall on me.

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