Dear Salvation Army, The Fish-Bowl Effect…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer for Intimacy (Poem & Prayer)

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Lord, you know how distracted I can be.
How I can hide my heart from you.
Break down these walls in which I hide.
Make me vulnerable and pliable to You.
I do not desire a divided heart…
and yet I often find myself there.
I thirst for You, Dear Lord;
I long for Your holy presence.
Create in me this clean heart
so that I can love and serve You sincerely, 
clearly…
articulated 
authentic and pure…
complete…and whole.
Lord you know how distracted I can be…
become my full focus…
become my everything…
Consume my heart and mind,
make me wholly Yours.  

-Amen.  

Either Put Up or Shut Up! I’m All in or nothing at all!

The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 

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The Jewish leaders struggled over 613 individual moral statutes or commands by which they were to live and conduct themselves.  Sometimes they debated among themselves as to which of these moral statutes were vital and which of them were less vital.  They didn’t want to make the mistake of placing some statues above more important one and vice-versa.  Yet this struggle brought itself right before Jesus.  One of the teachers ventured to ask Him this question, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28).  

Jesus laid it all out for those who would hear Him; “The most important one,” Jesus answered, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Now, dear fellow Christ-follower, it is either time for us to put up or shut up.  I don’t mean to be crass here or offend you, but I cannot stress how vital it is for us to love the Lord with every fiber of our being.  Jesus placed this as the #1 priority in the lives of those asking and still today it ought to be #1 in our lives as well.  

Let me illustrate: 

Our homes are powered by electricity (well most of them are anyway).  If we were to bring in a brand new television to watch we first must take it out of the box and connect it to a power source.  Without the power source all of our favorite shows and possibilities are impossible.  We need to plug that television into the power in order for anything to happen, without it nothing works and nothing ever will.

Without first loving God with our EVERYTHING nothing else will work.  Without first loving God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength we are powerless.  It is either all or nothing.  God doesn’t want a partial kind of love.  He isn’t some on again off again God, either get on board with Him and love Him completely or don’t at all.  

Secondly, don’t try and fake out God…He’s not buying the act.  Others might see how good we look dressed up for Church and how we act in front of other Christians but if this isn’t consisted behind the scenes God knows.  This is a tough pill to swallow.  I’m not here to say that I have this all figured out either, because I too struggle at times with a divided heart.  Not intentionally mind you, but at times I catch myself and find that I have to once again realign my relationship and priorities with God.  

How is your heart today?  Do you find that at times you have a divided heart when it comes to your relationship with the Lord?  Perhaps it’s time for a heart realignment so that you can once again get plugged back into the true sources of power and life.  

Scriptures readings:  

Isaiah 29:13, Psalm 86:11, Mark 12:28-34

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Dear Lord, this heart…

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2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

 

“The God that never lets go!”

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“I was taking the kids to school”

I was listening to music on the radio as I was dropping my children off at school this morning.  Minding my own business, when God decided to pop in for a visit.  Perhaps it had been a while.  Perhaps, if this was a time for confessions I might admit to getting caught up in work and other things…perhaps.

Isn’t it funny how God can speak to us in so many different ways?  We can go to an art gallery and suddenly a painting of flowers will strike a chord in our hearts and we would know that God had something to do with it.  Or perhaps we see God in other people as the driver just ahead of you casually pays for your toll as well…God was there.  Or even in the midst of utter despair, pain, hurt, loss, we might read something that gently and quietly reminds us that God is present with us.  He is here with you now as you read this…do you believe that?  I do.  His presence is with us always, even to the ends of the earth, even when all hell breaks loose around us, even when we are blind to His passing…He is there!

…back to the music on the radio…

I was sitting in my van and two songs back to back touch my heart in a way that I couldn’t deny His presence there.  The first was a song by Mumford and Sons called “Below my feet”.  It wasn’t so much the entire song but the refrain that captured my heart for a moment:

” Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn”

As I heard those words I pondered that last sentence; “Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn”…but I said it like a prayer to the Lord.  Lord, keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn…. I didn’t lose control of the vehicle but I could feel His presence there and I may as well have been in church.

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“I may as well have been in church!”

The very next song that came on was a song by the David Crowder Band called “You never let go”.  Its words go like this:

When clouds veil the sun and disaster comes
Oh my soul, oh my soul
When waters rise and hope takes flight
Oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul

Ever faithful, ever true
You, I know, You never let go

You never let go, You never let go
You never let go
You never let go, You never let go
You never let go

When clouds brought rain and disaster came
Oh my soul, oh my soul
When waters rose and hope had flown
Oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul

Ever faithful, ever true
You, I know, You never let go

I was in church in my van…God was very present.  He reminded me of just how important it is to not only serve Him but to always look for Him in every moment of my day.  He’s here right now wanting so desperately to fellowship and commune with you and me.  And His promise to us is that He will never let go.

-Both songs will be linked below.

Just a thought for today.

Kicking in the front door

“Knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac?” 
― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

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We pray and pray at times for God to answer our prayers the way that we want them answered.  We yearn and we groan, and at times we call God cruel secretly in our hearts because of the lack of answered prayers.  Could it be that it isn’t so much about His answer but about our asking?  I cannot be calloused here to say to a dying person that it was God’s will for you to die…of course it wasn’t.  I am not saying either that God is harsh and wishes some to perish from physical afflictions, this is not the God I serve.  We do live in a fallen and temporal world in which diseases like cancer and AIDS prevail.  God weeps with those who mourn and comforts those who hurt…it was never His doing that would create such a sad predicament of man.  

But in terms of our every day prayers, we can become like a SWAT team attempting to kick in the front door of an assailant instead of humbling petitioning before God the needs of our lives.  It isn’t about our wants, but our needs that He will provide (which are according to His riches).  But sometimes in our asking (prayer) we become more like Veruca Salt.  Do you remember the spoiled character in Roald Dahl’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”?  Veruca Salt was a salty, spoiled brat who was given anything her heart desired.  This led to her downfall within the Chocolate factory, because her father could not give her something which didn’t belong to him.  Sometimes our asking prayers can seem like a spoiled little brat, I don’t mean to sound condescending because I too have asked like this.  Then when the answer doesn’t come to us the way that we wanted it, we flail on the floor and cry like a child desperately in need of  some discipline.  

How is your prayer life?  Are you approaching the throne of God with reverence and fear or are you Veruca Salt, intent on kicking down the front door if you have to?  Take an inventory of your prayer life, be mindful that God does listen to us and He will provide to those who ask in faith and that which brings glory and honor to Him.  

Before my day (a Poem)

In the waning hours before the sunrise

when soft light wisps through curtained window panes

and before the sounds of busy lives begin again

I renew my conversation with my God.

In blankets wrapped and pillow propped

before these feet place themselves into gravity

and as my eyes have yet to batten a lash in focus

I find again my deep connection with my God.

And in my counting of as many breaths

these lungs are filled with countless blessings

all my hopes and needs begin and end

with these early morning times of confessions.

So, dear Lord before I begin

and the world with all of its chaos ensues

allow me one more moment here with You

let me linger but for another and then…

come with me into the fray.

-Amen.

I’ll Fight!

 

In the years that I have lived, loved and groaned

I have never known the hunger pangs of children

I have never witnessed a child dying from the curable

because resources and money was lacking.

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I have never found pleasure in a single morsel of rice

because this was all I would eat in a week.

I have never been witness to the slaughter of my parents

because they believed in Jesus.

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I have never had to watch as my brothers and sisters

were sold into slavery on the human trafficking market,

loaded up in boxed trucks by the dozens like animals

heading to market…

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Yet I know it exists.

I know that many still today find grace in one ray of sunshine

in the midst of hell and fury of hate.

I know children go hungry as militant leaders steal

their wealth and resources and make child soldiers out of them.

I know Aids has killed and will kill entire generations in Africa

leaving orphans in its wake.

I know human slavery hasn’t been eradicated

but is extricating the innocent still to a shortened life of horror.

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I know.

But how can we end this?

How can we bring food to the hungry,

safety to the threatened

and cures to the dying?

My heart yearns to help.

My heart groans to give aid.

I want to fight this.

I want to stand in the gap for those who cannon for themselves.

I want to bring the light of Christ into darkened places.

To be a place of safe harbor to the lives clinging to death.

Lord how?

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How can we fight this?

How can we go?

How can we soldier on?

How do we shine when all we want to do cry and weep over

the evils of man?

This fight must begin and end with You!

Your strength.

Your peace.

Your discernment.

Your empowering arms of love.

Father, we cry out to You in a world

sin sick and broken.

Be our salve.

Be our shield.

Our fortress.

Our deliverance.

Our Victory.

I’ll fight!

I’ll fight on!

I’ll fight on into your victory!

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Lord I forgot about You! (A Poem and Prayer)

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Life is marred by many things

and busy schedules 

with phones that ring 

and Lord I confess I forget You. 

 

When worries increase

and time flies by

my space all leased

I am left wondering why…

why have I forgotten You?  

 

These fears flood in 

and hope leaks out

under-sieged by sin 

and I’m without 

why have I forgotten You?  

 

Until on my knees I must bend

In prayer and solitude again 

to reconnect with the Eternal friend

this is how is begins and ends.  

 

 

 

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