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!

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.

You’re a Liar, I’m a Liar – Here’s Why…

Whether we care to admit it or not, we are liars.
Go ahead, soak it up, take it in…
Some of you are probably offended by this accusation.
Some of you might be nervous – don’t be.

The Lies 
The biggest lie that we tell ourselves is this:  “I don’t need God.”
The second biggest lie that we tell ourselves is: “every thing is okay.”
And then there are those lies that we tell God – “Lord I promise if you get me out of this situation I will never do that (insert whatever “that” is here) again!”  Or, we go to the altar at some fancy big church event and confess our sins in a big emotional altar call and make promises that only last that weekend…in essence we lie because deep down we know we don’t plan on changing.
lies
We also lie to God by telling Him that He’s the only God in our lives, but let me ask you, how many hours a day do you spend on the internet or on social media?  How many hours a day watching tv, netflix etc…?  Are there other things that consume all of your time?  Are there things that you would shamefully admit that you’re obsessed with?  Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of this stuff, but when we spend hours and hours and hour a day gaming or web surfing or whatever – we have become consumed, and when we become consumed by something other than God – we have essentially set up idols to false gods in our lives.  Basically, whatever takes the place of God – becomes our god…and we are then liars who claim we know God, but rather, we only know of God.

1 John 1:8-10 says; “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

God Doesn’t LieGod
What God says – He means.
What He says He will do – He will do.
God doesn’t break His promises to us – We are usually the ones who break our promises to Him.  Do we need Him?  Absolutely, and yet our ego at times convinces us that we can go it alone and we don’t need Him to “interfere”.   Don’t lie to God, He’s not fooled.  Also, don’t lie to yourself!

stopStop The Lies
So what’s the point?
Do some soul searching in your life today.
Be humble,.in other words, put yourself low, look hard and deep at your own life right now – without any sugar coating or facades (which are lies that you have told yourself).

– Another lie we might hear in our minds from time to time is this:  “I am not good enough to be called a Child of God, (or to be called a “Christian”)” We might buy into that lie because of guilt and shame, but God’s grace through Jesus Christ can remove that guilt and shame completely – making us totally covered by grace and completely forgiven!  Don’t buy this lie anymore!!  God loves you, and He wants you to know how valuable you are to Him!

We tell ourselves a lot of lies…and sometimes we start to believe them.
We also try and tell God lies too…but we aren’t fooling Him, He knows.

honestBe Honest.
Allow the Lord access to every part of your mind today…even the spaces in the recesses of your mind that you are ashamed of.  He already knows, but we have to let Him in and allow His light to shine onto those dark, shameful places in order for healing, true healing to take place.  Admittedly, this is a work in progress for all of us.  There will be times when we lie, or believe a lie in our minds again.  But the next time that happens, recognize it and within that recognition, plot and strive to change that behavior.  Ask God to help you in those moments!  True sincerity and admission/penitence moment by moment allow us access to God, and it also provides us with tangible spiritual growth.

prayPray.
Lord, I confess my lies to you today.
Lies that I have told, and the lies that I have believed about myself.
I am weakened by these lies, but I know that with your strength I can be whole again!
Walk beside me today Lord, reveal to me the moments of my dishonesty to you and to those I come in contact with.  Convict me when I live double-mindedly.  Lord, I do not want this barrier to remain between us.  I know this has stunted my spiritual growth, and I desire to be closer to you.  Lead me Lord, I desire to give all there is of me to you – even those spaces in my life and mind that I am ashamed of.  Wash me clean again.  -Amen.

Something more to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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!
Please subscribe, share and leave your comments and questions below!
Thanks for tuning in, and check back tomorrow for more content to ponder!

Perspectives Day #1 – Featuring Colonel Dennis Strissel “Opinion8ed”

“Opinion–8-ed”

(A series of eight installments)

Number Seven – Mulligans for Ministry continued

Photo Jan 05, 4 13 24 PM

In his excellent biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas includes this important event as foundational to Bonhoeffer’s faith.

 “In November 1921, at the age of fifteen, Bonhoeffer went to the first evangelistic meeting of his life. General Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army had conducted ministry in Germany before the war, and in 1919, greatly moved by reports of suffering there, especially the hunger among children, he found a way around the official channels and was able to have milk distributed. He also gave five thousand pounds to relief efforts.

Two years later Booth came to Berlin to lead a series of evangelistic meetings. Thousands showed up, including many soldiers broken by the war. Sabine recalled that ‘Dietrich was eager to take part in it. He was the youngest person there, but he was very interested. He was impressed by the joy he had seen on Booth’s face, and he told us of the people carried away by Booth, and of the conversions.’ A part of him was powerfully attracted to this sort of thing, but he wouldn’t see anything like it again for ten years, when he attended the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.”

Forgive me for having some measure of pride in the fact that the joy observed and experienced through the moving of the Holy Spirit by Salvationists past, impressed and blessed an adolescent Bonhoeffer. Perhaps the memory of such joy accompanied him through his darkest hours. One of Bonhoeffer’s final writing describes life’s finality in this way, “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.” That is only possible through divine joy.

Since this article is meant to be reflective, considering what I would have done better during my years of active service, it goes without saying that living a joyful life would be paramount. Life in Christ is always about joyfulness. It is distinct from simply being happy. We can all attest to days that are not happy ones but in spite of the seriousness that life brings, joy can always be found in every event or experience. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone express the beginning of the faith walk as a result of seeing your joy, even during some of the most stressful times of life? Perhaps you will join me in praying part of David’s prayer of contrition today…

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

Ps 51:7-13 NIV

Amen

Dear Pastors, Authentic Joy Can Inspire Your Congregation!

sleepThe Pastor looked tired.
He gets up to preach the message and delivers an impassioned four point sermon with colorful illustrations and “all the fixin’s”…still no one comes forward to altar.  He starts to doubt his abilities to lead people to Christ.  He starts to grow frustrated and restless in his calling.  He looks out at his church congregation and believes most are just without “ears to hear” and have settled into Christian mediocrity.

What’s wrong with this picture?
It seems like some sort of fictional story and yet this is not so uncommon among pastors today.
Many pastors get out of seminary and believe that they will make a difference…and most will.  Most Pastors are prepared for the fray, and for “ministry life”.  Yet, as reality sets in, the risk many might face is disillusionment, ministry fatigue, and a loss of mission.

The problem that I have with the above illustration is two-fold: 
1) It’s all about the Pastor.  me
We pastors and ministers of this amazing grace can often get it wrong or backwards.
It’s not about us, it never was.
It’s not about how awesome we are, or how contemporary or traditional we are…it isn’t about how much media we utilize on a Sunday morning either.  Oh, and it’s also not about how amazing our worship band is or isn’t.  These are all surface things.

Dare I say that we as Pastors can begin to have an ego problem.
We call the shots, we make the executive orders, we plan the service and we preach that sermon that our congregation needs to hear each Sunday morning.  Is it easy to miss the point of “Church”?  You bet it is.  Especially when it becomes all about the Pastor.

This is a real danger, so be aware of its beckoning ego-centric call! 

2) The authentic joy is vacant in the Pastor’s life & ministry.  bored
The second problem I see in the uninspired ministry goes hand in hand with the last issue.
If it’s all about us and our ministry team, we run the risk of displaying that misaligned vision to our congregations.  And when we “put up a front” and paint this perfect picture for them, they see right through it. It’s like that elementary teacher who is terrified of elementary students…those kids just know when the teacher is scared to death.

Authentic joy cannot be faked.
People, especially our congregation, will know and see through inauthentic fakery.
It doesn’t matter how flowery your sermon is…
It doesn’t matter how “on point” the worship band was this Sunday…
It doesn’t matter if you have everything right on the bulletin this Sunday…
IF you aren’t authentic and you’re just going through the motions, it will be more evident than you think.

What I’m not saying today:
I’m not saying that we have to be Happy all the time – I know that it’s just not possible to put on a happy face when things are far from happy in your church.
I’m not saying that we have to perpetually seek joy and happiness for our church members either.

What I am saying is this: 
Authenticity, in every season is a hard commodity to come by all the time.
I have preached those sermons.
I have lived that illustration.
I have been there.

So how do we recapture that Authentic joy once more?
Not by some feel good seminar or self-help section (but sometimes that helps).
Not by continuing to fake it and gut it out for a little while longer.
No, we have to find fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to confide in and to share each other’s burdens.
We need (and crave) fellow Pastors to tell us that they’ve been to those desert places as well.
We have to feast on uplifting, yet challenging spiritual readings by theologians and thinkers who will push up out of our funk from time to time.  If the iron isn’t in the fire being sharpened by other iron, then it is growing rusty and dull.

Don’t hole up in your office.
Don’t internalize your struggles and think no one else will relate.
Don’t pretend that you have it all worked out.
Talk, share, connect with other Pastors…

We need to go back to the source of living water…and sometimes (many times) we need each other more than we think.

Capturing authentic joy and passion for your ministry once again requires other pastors, mentors and leaders to help you.  Don’t become rusty and dull…let’s help recapture that spark in your life once more!

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

I Don’t Want A “Grown-up” Kind Of Faith!

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5)

When I look back at my childhood, it is with a sense of joy and regret.  Joy in the fact that I live it, regret in the fact that I grew up.  How simpler life seemed as a child.  Children aren’t weighed down by the complications of life.  Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to have friends as you grow older?  As a child you could be in a new neighborhood and make friends all in the same afternoon…but now it could take months even years to gravitate to a few close friendships.  As a child, everything seemed possible, tangible realistic..as an adult things are much more complicated, some things have become impossible, immovable and life has its boundaries.

knewwI believe the same can be said about our faith as well.
As a child, faith is as vast as the galaxy around us.  Everything is possible.
There are no limits to it.  Child-like faith breathes life everlasting into our lungs.
Child-like faith returns the impossible into the possible, the unrealistic into the realistic.  Child-like faith turns the up close view of our problems back into the grand scheme of God’s plan and assures us that we are not alone!   With child-like faith, the God of the Universe IS capable of ALL things once more…and He cares for you and for me.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want a “grown-up” kind of faith any longer.
Grown-up faith has to boil everything down.
Grown-up faith has to see before believing.
Grown-up faith has to complicate everything more than it was ever meant to be.
Grown-up faith comes with its own set of filters, ambiguities and personal discrimination.
Grown-up faith places self into the equation when selflessness is really what is needed.

Grown-up faith shouldn’t be confused with “maturity” of our faith, rather it is the over complication of this thing we call faith.

Photo Apr 16, 11 26 12 AMI regret losing that child-like faith when I grew up.
I regret allowing the world around to seep into my perception of God and His relationship to me.
I regret taking that child-like faith for granted.
I regret…regretting what used to be.

BUT…
I know that it is not too late.
I…
We…
can begin again with Child-like faith, but first we have to release all of those Grown-up complications that we have associated with our faith.  We have to release the baggage of guilt and regret.  We have to let go of the wrongs this world has inflicted upon us.  We have to move past ourselves as we embrace Christ for all He is in and through us.  When we can begin to live only for Him instead of us, so too begins this path of Child-like faith once more.

FaithSomething more to ponder today.
May we run with child-like abandon after Christ and in so doing embrace that child-like faith once more.
To God be the glory!

At Christmas (A poem)

I’m keeping warm, this heart of mine
in winter’s air, this soul repines,
these bones, but brittle glory be
the wonders of His love to see.

I dare not miss nor neglect this grace
and lose out on heavn’s holy place
a song of praise, a song of peace
a hope of joy will never cease.

And so I glimpse into that stable
the Son of God, no, not a fable.
A gift of hope, of love divine
salvation givn’ to all mankind.
SEStrissel 12-19-14

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑