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.

It feels like a sucker-punch…

a few weeks ago, out of the blue, I looked up Rachel Held Evans because I hadn’t heard from her in a while. I have enjoyed her blog, and though at times I have been at odds with her view point, I have always been challenged by what she had to say.

So I looked her up, and discovered she was ill and in a medically induced coma. I couldn’t believe it. What? Naturally, I figured the doctors knew what they were doing and she would be fine. Then I saw the news today, it was sobering, it caught me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. I involuntarily exhaled all of the wind from my lungs. She was gone.

I cannot even imagine what her husband Dan must be going through right now. She was only 37 years old, and I feel as if the world has been sucker-punched right in the gut. How could something like this even happen…and yet it does. How could something so random and seemingly innocuous even take place in our modern-medicine-filled-world? It feels as if a large boulder has been placed on our collective chests and we are immobilized by the sheer weight of it.

The “pat”, Christianese answers like “well, it must have been God’s timing” and “everything happens for a reason” just feel like bold-faced lies, and I don’t want to hear them said. There is a certain bitter taste that wells up in my mouth and I feel that when someone so young (with a young family) and so much potential in the world dies it just seems so unfair. I have felt this way numerous times, and I wish that there was some way to quantify the sudden passing of people like this…but there’s not. We live in a very fragile world and every one of us is very much mortal. Life and Death balance precariously in our world and (as morbid as it sounds -sorry) any moment could possibly be our last.

I won’t cheapen Rachel Held Evans’ death by trying to summarize and “mortalize” a neatly packaged missive, stating that we never really know when the Lord will take us…but I will say that this all just feels heavy and unfair. I know we have never, ever been given a life that was guaranteed to be fair, but when a loved one or someone we respect dies so suddenly we feel it in the core of our souls…and it feels so very unfair. Please keep Dan Evans, Rachel’s husband in your prayers, as well as their small children and the extended family.

Perhaps we will all catch our breath again, but for right now, it just feels like a massive sucker-punch…and it’s okay to mourn…but it just feels so unfair.

-Just a thought.

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!

Dear Salvation Army, Baptism & The Great Commission?

16″ Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Salvation Army Doctrine #1:We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.”

I do not mean to stir the waters, pun intended, but I have often wondered what your Salvationist response would be on this topic.  I must confess that I have often struggled with reconciling our doctrine with the lack of fulfillment of the great commission as described in verse 19; “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”   Yes, I understand that we are non-sacramental in religious practice, but one wonders why even such a discussion often evokes the same response one might expect from a discovery of a sin issue.  Seriously, it’s generally frowned upon, knee-jerk reactions abound every time Communion and Baptism are even mentioned.  It almost seems like we treat such conversations as heresy and equate such talk to sin.  Why is that?
Why such harsh attacks on even the mention of these religious practices?

I bring the topic of Baptism up today in this pondering so that we can dialogue together, so that we might bring a deeper understanding of our theology to the forefront and that we do not linger amongst the shallow answers of “Because that’s how we have always done things“…but why?

water

Historical Context:
We ought to recognize that Industrial England, the birth place of The Salvation Army, certainly had it dichotomy of the upper class and the poor.  Many within the lower East-end would not have been welcome in The Church of that day.  Also, within the lack of practice of Baptism and Communion, we know that our theological tradition precludes the need of such symbolic practices because we are “baptized by the Holy Spirit” and “The Sacrificial life is more important than participation in the Sacraments”.  Understandably so, but I wonder if such staunch views have prohibited some in recent years of full membership?  What I mean is, does our lack of practice or participation in these fundamental “Christian” elements, distract some would-be soldiers in joining our ranks?  There are certainly many views on the subject.  On one extreme – there are those within other denominations who feel since one was never “properly” Baptized they cannot claim to be Christians.  And then on the other side of the spectrum, there are those who view practices of water baptism to be archaic and unnecessary.

 So back to my original question…
If we believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice, Why do we fail to include parts of the “Great Commission”?  Again I don’t mean to stir up controversy, but I would like us to answer this…I want you to help me fill in the content here that I struggle with.  No, I don’t have a baptismal in my corps building, no I don’t baptize my members, but I’m curious how we decide to fulfill some of the “Divine rule of Christian faith and practice” while excluding others?  Why is this topic so taboo?

Another question that comes to my mind then is this:  Are we a fluid moving Army or are there somethings that cannot change within our structure and practice?  I am in no way advocating we change our stance on Baptism or Communion; but is there a point where the reasons we refrained from such practices in another age and era should be reconsidered in another age and era?  Would this be going backwards or progressing forward?  Or perhaps there is too much emphasis on the baptism part and there ought to be more emphasis made on the “make disciples” component to the Great Commission.  Perhaps this is the “happy middle”?

go

Again, I’m curious on your answers here.
As always, I look forward to the responses that sound off with shock and awe that such a question should ever be asked within the Army.  Again, it is surprising to me how we often treat this topic as “hush, hush“, almost as if we’re talking about a sin.  Why is that?  Couldn’t we even deepen our understanding of our own doctrine by talking out-loud about such things and there by adding clarity to the topic for others?  Also, I am not looking for a lecture here either, simply a dialogue and what your response might be on this specific topic.

Something more for the Army to ponder today, hopefully you don’t label me a heretic for even asking the question.  Blessings on you today!


Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of The Salvation Army, but rather the writer’s own thoughts, questions and opinions expressed.  Reader discretion is advised.  

Dear Salvation Army – 10 Things That Will Kill Your Corps

Today I want to explore with you only ten things that will kill our corps.  As with other lists we have compiled here on Pastorsponderings, this is merely a primer and I know there are other issues that will certainly lead to a terminal corps.  Be mindful as we explore this list to consider your own corps, ask yourself the hard questions.  Our goal is not to tear down or make anyone feel bad about their corps, but instead through critical thinking, help us to inject vibrancy into corps settings.  One other word of caution – Corps Officers, don’t try to be the dictator of every aspect of your corps, micromanaging will stunt the potential growth of your soldiers and local officers.  Soldiers & Local Officers, don’t expect or accept the notion that your corps officer is to do everything either.  This is a partnership.  It is true that the position of corps officer is a very temporal position and with it comes differing views and leadership styles, but be firm and strong as the glue that hold your corps together!  More often than not, corps that die usually have little to no local officers leading the way.  Without that infrastructure the corps can collapse.

So, without further adieu, let us delve into
Ten Things That Will Kill Your Corps 

  1.  Legalism legal
    Contrary to some views, the Pharisee of the Bible did not die…they still exist sometimes even in our corps.  Be mindful of the use of rules and regulations.  Yes, we need order and operate within a quasi-military structure, but watch out that extreme legalism doesn’t soffocate your members!  Remember that we are not under law but under grace!  (Rom. 6:14)   Yes, keep to the doctrines of our Army, but do not lord it over soldiers and adherents.  Excessive power will divide people and make them dispise leadership, where as grace and love will solidify the soldiers and friends of our army.  Sometimes, bite your tongue and say nothing is a better formula than lashing out, judging and becoming the rule enforcer!
  2. Tolerance of Sin Issues
    sinAt the other end of the spectrum is the ignoring and tolerance of sin issues in your corps.  Be mindful that we are not the judge of our world, but we do hold a high standard for our fellow brothers and sister in Christ who wear this uniform.  This almost seems to be in complete conflict with the first point, but it is not.  Galatians 6:1 clearly reminds us as it did in Paul’s day – “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

    Do not blindly ignore sin issues in your corps.
    Confront in love with the support of other believers.  We must be very cautious here, make sure this is not done in anger, unless righteous anger is needed (let the Holy Spirit lead you).  Pray about these issues.  Wait for the right time.  DO NOT confront from the Pulpit or lash out at people just to “get even”.  Use your corps council, your local officers, contact an mediatary from your divisional headquarters, but do not let anyone in your fellowship slip further into sin and/or by ignoring it condone it by-proxy.

  3. Lack of Core Leadership
    Without core leaders in the corps, the vision and decisions fall solely on the Corps leadOfficer(s).  Yes, they have had training, yes they are leaders, but they cannot lead properly without the core leaders to help them.  A shared vision and delegated group will be better equipped to handle opportunities and threats that come to your corps and community.  If you don’t currently have core leaders, begin by praying and asking God to reveal potential leaders to you.  Prayer is never a last resort, but a constant conversation.  Don’t limit your search to just the older members, the younger generations will eventually replace us at some point, so begin to invest in them.  Begin to disciple them, and display for them what leadership is all about!  Gather one or two influential people with common sense to help you in your corps.  Remember, that we are an egalitarian movement – both men and women are equal, so do not limit your leadership search to just men or just women.  Without a core group of leaders, the vision and movement will be limited.
  4. Polarizing Visions
    disagreement
    Polarizing Vision Can Kill!
    On the other end of the spectrum you might have too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.  What happens when the core leaders in your core do not agree on which direction to take?  This is a danger, and if not addressed properly can leader to dysfunction, an exodus of membership and death in the corps.  A shared vision is of the utmost importance.  Without a shared vision, everyone will be doing their own thing and everyone will be going every which way, and nothing will ever get done successfully.  “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14)
  5. Inwardly focused – All-in
    There is a danger in our corps to become so insulated, so accustomed to who is there, focusedand what we do as a corps, that we begin to have no need for the “outside world”.  We stop looking out into our community and we become self-reliant and self-focused.  In this danger, what happens when our congregation gets old and dies?  Will there be youth to raise up and take our place?  Will be just be a group of inbred soldiers?  I don’t mean to sound crass, but the reality is, we need to stop being afraid of our communities.  We need to stop treating the people outside our buildings as “those people” with a sense of superiority.  We must squelch the desire to just remain in our buildings and selfishly focus on “us”.  What about the great commission?  What are we fighting for if we only fight for ourselves and our traditions and self-interests?  If we are all-in and inwardly focused, we will slowly die away…and no one will care when we’re gone.
  6. Outwardly focused – All-in
    godThis is probably a rare thing, but perhaps not.  Perhaps there are some corps that have so many services to the community that worship and all things “Spiritual” are an after thought, and then you come to Sunday and it just becomes a “thing we do”.  We focus all of our energies on the outside, on meeting human needs but we seldom meet those needs “in HIS name” anymore.  We might as well be just another social service agency or a humanitarian group, because we will have forgotten our first love and the “body” will be just bits and pieces pulled and stretched so thin that it doesn’t resemble Christ any longer.
  7. Rigid Goals and Vision 
    We can plan to fail by over planning everything.  This can kill our corps, if we do not listen to feedback from those we serve, and we merely continue to plod on in ourrule vision and goal because “they have been set, and we don’t alter these goals”.  Goals should never be so rigid that there is no looking back and re-evaluating what works and what does not work, whether it be in evangelism, discipleship, or corps fellowship growth strategies.  Remember what worked 100 years ago, might not necessarily be the best method to use in an ever evolving culture.  Not to say we adopt our culture, but we ought to consider what works and what does not work any longer and not be so rigid that we refuse to ever change how we plan and how we enact a strategy in our corps.  Rigidity can kill your corps, and stifle any potential growth you might see.
  8. Holiness is not taught
    holyIf you corps does not understand Holiness, and or it is never preached on spoken of, perhaps this might be an indicator of a terminal issue.  I am not saying that holiness is the end-all be-all of the corps, but what do you do with Salvation after receiving it?  Where does one go after initial sanctification?  Does the Holy Spirit still desire to transform us through and through?  Does He not want us to be the very reflection of Christ?  Yes.  There needs to be continual conversation about our surrendered life and how that looks in the real world.
  9. Discipleship is not cultivated
    With the teachings of Holiness, comes the deeper fellowship of discipleship.  This isn’t some text book class we all are forced to attend, this is mentoring, this is disemulating elders we respect, this is becoming more than who we are now.  Walking in the footsteps of saints and in so doing, we too become saints within this great army.  If your corps does not have this vital element, closely connected to holiness, you could be facing extinction.  Recognize this need, and do something!!
  10. Comfort Over Risk 
    Lastly, our army could will die if we merely remain content in where we have come.  We can sit back and relish the past.  We can lament that things aren’t how they used lazyto be in the bygone days.  We can rest comfortably on financial resources and riches we have been given from various places, and never take another risk again…and if we do this, we. will. die.  I cannot stress it enough, in order for God to change our Army, we have to become uncomfortable again.  We have to take risks and forget what the rules and regulations say.  We have to close dead corps, move to places of need without bureaucratic red tape hamstringing us along the way.  We have to get out of our pews and put feet to our professed faith.  It’s either put up or shut-up.  Seriously, we can talk a good game, but if we can’t back it up, then hung it up and quit already.  We don’t need fans in the stands not doing the work.  We don’t need complainers and criticizers telling it us it can’t be done – because the risk is too great.  If we don’t do something, we might as well put our corps on life-support right now.  There is a sad trend that is taking place in our corps around the USA, and our corps are not statistically growing anymore.  We are not busting out of our corps buildings anymore.  Yes, perhaps it’s across the board in all denominations, but could it be that we are so comfortable now that we have stopped ACTUALLY trying to reach our communities?  Could this be an entire systemic issue of spiritual laziness?  Forgive me if I offend you today, I can’t help but feel alarmed at how swiftly our corps are dying.  And I can’t help but wonder what the next 50 years will hold for this movement?  If we do nothing, we will not be here in 50 years…not like we have been, not like we should be…and then perhaps, Lord forbid, God raises up someone else to do what we should have been doing.

    These are ten things that are killing our corps…there are more, but for now that is more than enough to ponder and chew on in our army.  What do you think?  Tell us, please, I relish your input, opinion and testimonies.

    Blessings on you and your corps today!
    To God be the glory!

Putting Jesus Back

Monday after Easter, and the Easter dress is on the floor in the laundry room, as are the Easter suits and carelessly tossed ties and shoes.  Easter is over.  The Celebration party had its curtain call.  Everyone went home.  So…what now?

What impact does the Resurrection have on us the day after?  The week after?  The month after?   Understandably we can say “Well there’s always next year…”  or “I go to church every Sunday anyway.”  These are all valid points, but what kind of impact does Christ’s resurrection have on you and me in our daily lives?

All too often we want to put Jesus back.
We put Him back into those boxes for next year.
We put Him back on the hanger as we hang up that Easter dress or suit.  dress
We close our Bibles to that story until next year rolls back around.
We put Jesus back into our preconceived, compartmentalized places.

But should we put it all back like that?
Is there a trace of Him in our work places, social events, friendships, relationships, families?  Or does He get put away just like the seasonal stuff in our closets?
I have to wonder what the answer is even for me sometimes.
I can accept a risen Savior, but what does it mean in my habits, and in my faith walk and my desire to become more and more like Him?  How does this Resurrected Christ fit into my overly complicated life?  Am I secretly compartmentalizing Jesus?  Am I packing Him away for another year?  Am I checking that season off on my calendar  and moving on without Him there?

box2

 

What a tragedy it would be for any of us to progress past the cross and the empty tomb without it affecting the entirety of who we are as His creation!  Essentially when we put Him back on the shelf, in the box, on a hanger – we are selectively accepting who He is and who He can be in our lives.   We are, subconsciously putting limits on the Almighty…we are also putting limits on our own spiritual growth.

 

A New Creation: 
A friend of mine on Facebook posted this comment that sparked my heart and ignited some intrinsic truth deep within me.  Have you ever had one of those “A-ha” moments?  Where the light bulb flickers on, and it’s bright and it shines on truth.  Perhaps this will spark something within you too in terms of re-framing  who Jesus is, which will undoubtedly make us second guess putting Jesus back…here it is:

One could suggest that the ‘tetelestai’ (it is finished) saying refers not to atonement but to creation; it is the creation that is completed on the cross. On the cross, the true human is created, creation is now complete.” (Cameron Horsburgh/Michael Hardin)

                                                      -Mind. Blown. –

How can you ever go back to putting Jesus on the shelf?
How can you not have a life changing event take place in your heart when you consider ALL of creation is now complete in this Messiah atonement?  That we can’t put God in a box and only bring Him out once a year in light of creation becoming complete in Him.  There’s nowhere else to move besides forward in our relationship to the One who has made EVERYTHING complete!

It’s like buying a new suit, wearing it only one time just to put it on a hanger and stare at it while wearing the same old dingy ripped up, dirty outfit you’ve always worn.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  So…why do we do this sometimes with Jesus?

Unwrapping It.
Take Jesus off the shelf.   box3
Throw the old outfit away – you have a new suit to wear!
Throw away the old title for yourself – “Sinner”
Because you’ve been saved by this amazing grace found only in Jesus, and you’ve been given a new title – “Child of God.”
You can’t compartmentalize Jesus.
You can’t “seasonalize” Him either.
He can’t be contained.
He wants to transform you!
He has already completed creation – which can include YOU!

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

May you find an ever present Christ with you today!
May our hearts be compelled to live for Him and reside with Him every moment of every day!  May we experience this new creation every time we utter His name on our breath.
May this transformation of the new, complete creation be in us EVERY day.

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

(Another fitting article for today from Steve Simms entitled: “Why Put Jesus In A Box?” check it out too!)

David Bowie, Lazarus, Blackstar, Life and Death

I have to admit right up front that I was never an avid fan of Bowie’s music.
Sure, I know all of the hits, like “China Girl“, “Let’s Dance” and the Iconic song duet with Freddie Mercury “Under pressure“: …but I wouldn’t categorize my fandom as “superfan” by any means.  I don’t have all of his records, cd’s or downloaded musical content.

movieMy very first recollection of Bowie’s work came by way of the movie “The Labyrinth”.
He played an amazing villainous character known as the Goblin King.  His music and strange vocals carried a mediocre movie into the realms of a cult classic.

David Bowie wasn’t your average, run of the mill musician.  He sort of did his own thing.  He set the trend.  His music was strangely weird and fascinating at the same time.  In 1969 Bowie gave us Major Tom in “The Space Oddity” which tells the tale of an astronaut leaving Earth and of his fears in a rather nostalgic and melancholy way.

Throughout his career he gave us odd.  He gave us artistry and creativity.  He certainly gave us something unique and rarely (if ever) duplicated.

But…
this isn’t really a tribute today.
This is a pondering.  And like all ponderings, I would like to ask questions that perhaps have no answer, but maybe, just maybe we continue to seek them out along the way.

BLACKSTAR Photo Jan 26, 8 18 49 AM
I find it rather fascinating that David Bowie kept his failing, terminal diagnosis of cancer to himself.  It is astounding in this day and age that something that was private stayed private.  What’s even more interesting is that although Bowie was given this gloomy prognosis, he set his sights on finishing this remarkable journey on his own terms.  Just two days after the release of Blackstar, Bowie died.  It was as if he had timed all of this, and everything went according to his plans.

Life and Death…
blackI have listened to Bowie’s last album “Blackstar”.
I have seen both music videos for Lazarus and Blackstar.  They are hypnotic, weird and yet oddly captivating.  Within these depictions of death, we find a man struggling with his own mortality and coming to grips with his own illness.  There is so much to ponder with this final release.  He certainly knew he was dying when he began work on this album.  He knew time was short.  Despite his prognosis, Bowie decided how his passing would be depicted to the world.  I do not want to delve too deeply into the symbolism and interpretation of his final songs, but I am quite interested in the final product of who each of us are…and what we leave wish to behind.

Making it Personal…
My personal interpretation of this final act of Bowie’s speaks to me on a much deeper plain than mere showbiz and pop culture.  The question begs to be asked in my own life.  It’s a question that currently doesn’t have a specific timetable like Bowie’s did, and yet keeps pounding on the door of my life.  It’s not a prideful question, or a fear of one’s reputation either.  In the purest sense…in the honesty of silence, when no one else is around…this question begs me to answer.  It’s really a two fold question that keeps getting kicked around in my head, and I still find myself falling short on the words that would formulate an appropriate answer.  Questions like: “How do you want to be remembered, and what sort of legacy do you want to leave behind?” float around my mind waiting to be explored, quantified and perhaps answered in slow-small doses.

Honestly, I don’t wish to take away anything from Bowie’s artistry and canvas that he has hung on its final frame and placed on his legacy (that is a stand-alone project of His life – not mine) …but within my own heart I must ask this of myself…and perhaps we all do.  I’m some what fearful to what the answers might be, because it can be far too revealing even to ourselves.  “What am I doing with my life right now that matters?”  “What can I leave as a legacy for my children and for the world around me?”  “How is the world better because of what I’ve done to better it around me?”

From a Christ-driven relationship perspective, I also know that I do not live for myself, thomasbut for One who has given us all grace.  I live for One who holds both life and death in His hands, and in Whom everlasting life can be found.  I find that my “Lazarus” in this new life, in the hope of eternal life is completely and utterly found in Christ.  This isn’t some sermon I’m writing, or a persuasive speech, this is just how I feel and what I see in my life.  I know hope exists.  I know peace exists.  Everlasting love and life also exist – in Christ.

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains at sunsetWhere ever you live.
Whatever you do.
If you are facing grim prognosis’ in life…know that this life is only the beginning.
We can grasp onto a life that is eternal and will never run down or expire unlike these bodies of ours.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvationist -Watch Your Mouth!

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29

The Holiness Movement is far from dead.
We, as Salvationists, have within our veins more than the figurative colors of red, yellow, blue…we have the image of Christ within our hearts.  Not to say that other Christ-followers do not, or that we are better than anyone else, but this message, this pondering is primarily for Salvationists in our world today.

We face difficulties in our communities and in our culture which makes it hard to be truly set apart for God.  The lure of many things comes knocking at our doors and begs us to participate, to comprise, to ignore this calling.   Is it possible to look so much like the culture that our effectiveness in mission is compromised?  Is there a line that begs and pleads alluringly to be crossed?  What of our attitudes, our hearts, and our speech?  Do these go hand in hand with our lifestyles, with our mission?

There isn’t a time clock that we punch when we accept this holy mission of Christ’s.  We are either all in or not at all.  We don’t wear the uniform to the corps but once it’s off at home we become someone else, with a different set of life rules.    We are beckoned to “go into all the world…”  We are asked to “take up our crosses” and follow Christ.  If we are to imitate Him in every way (Ephesians 5:1), then this includes what we say.

Confession: blah
I can be cynical at times (That’s not a shock to some of you).
I always joke that I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm, but sometimes that sarcasm takes a very harmful turn.  My speech isn’t always as it should be.  Words can become barbs that are razor sharp that can cut to the heart of people faster than any blade could ever penetrate.  I know this of myself.  I make no excuse of this.  Does that mean I wish to continue to the live my life in a verbal rut?  Of course not!

Dear Salvationist
blood and fireDo you have the deep desire to continue to grow in Christ?
Is there, within your heart, the Spirit’s pleading to become more than you are right now?
Are we settling for the verbal ruts, the bad habits, the inexcusable behavior?  Do we make excuses and/or rationalize these away in order to make them more palatable and accepted? I can tell you truthfully that you will never really know peace within your heart as long as you continue to reside where the Holy Spirit does not want you to reside – in regards to ungodly habits and behaviors that are contrary to your covenant or promise to Him.

Like our tithe, like our commitments to God – if we continue to only give Him a portion, we will never be truly satisfied living within His will.  What is God’s will for us?  Read Micah 6:8 again “He has shown you, oh man what is good and what the Lord requires from you.  To live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”   Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Watch Your Mouth!mouth
Be mindful of your mission field.
Be aware of how ungodly speech corrupts your heart and those around you.
What kind of speech am I talking about?  Not just profanity and course language, but (and more importantly) unkind words towards others, Gossip of any kind, malicious-hate fueled speech.  Words that do not build up but instead destroy.  Soldiers of this Army; more importantly Soldiers of God do not act this way…should not act this way!  Watch your mouth…it can build souls and help them become more Christ-like, or it can burn the heart and fuel it into hatred towards God…that is how helpful or harmful your words can be.

Questions to Ponder Today:
How can I change my patterns of speech?
Do I recognize those moments when my words become barbs and are used as weapons?
What is the Holy Spirit instructing me to do within my actions and my use of speech?
What kinds of changes do I need to make right now?
Have I settled for where I am right now or am I willing to grow through the direction of the Holy Spirit?

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

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