“Pressing on or Drop it like it’s hot”

We are adding a new addition to Pastorsponderings, podcasts!
Today, we’re going to add our first podcast offering – “Pressing on or drop it like it’s hot”.

Click on the link below to listen to today’s podcast –
http://scottstrissel.podomatic.com/entry/2015-04-22T09_49_30-07_00

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phillippians 3:7-14

Questions to consider: 
Do we do that in our service to others?
Do we do that in our service to God?
Do we go through the motions, but inside it’s just real work without passion?
Do we sometimes struggle with this commission God has given to us?

Prayer:
Dear Lord, help me to serve you with everything that I’ve got!
I don’t want to grudgingly serve you.
I don’t want to throw my services on the floor because I have to.
I want to serve you because I love you.
I want to serve others because of your love!
Teach me.
Fill me.
Renew me.
Give me your eyes for those around me.
Help me see where your love abounds and where I must go to share that love with others today.
In your name I pray.
-Amen.

A Pondering On Injustice…

You know what I have trouble with?
injusticeInjustices.

Those moments in life when,
both big and small injustices take place.
It is mind boggling that there are people in our world who
truly do not care about other people at all.
It goes far beyond being inconsiderate.
It’s about self-preservation over anyone else’s needs.
These injustices are fueled by greed.
These injustices are fueled by selfishness, power, anger, covetousness…evilSometimes I get so angry at these injustices…
If I were truly honest
I get more angry at the people who perpetrate these injustices.  revenge
much so that I want to exact my own kind of justice.

So much so that I sometimes imagine watching them regret their decisions
fighting fire with fire
a tooth for a tooth.

Sometimes, in my mind
I take on this role of judge, jury and executioner.
sometimes, I let this fantasy taint how I see other people…
And within that lens
I am better than them.
I am the pious one.
I am the perfect one.
Then I realize that I am a
hypo

I have become a  ——pharisee

So busy looking for
the flaws in others
that I have neglected
to look at my own Heart.

How dare I do such a thing…and yet it’s done every day.
Am I the only one in this —-
boatAm I the only one?
I don’t think so.
Are there injustices in this world?  absolutely_whiteShould we fight against these?
Yes.
but then I am reminded of another verse:
sin

And I am reminded how lost some people are.
I am reminded that despite our hopeless situations
Christ STILL died for us.
Despite our evil ways.
Despite our ignorance and selfishness
He still died for us.

Then another thing strikes me
like being struck across the face.
I.  am. not. the judge.
I am. not. the. one. who. exacts. ultimate. justices.

Can I fight against injustices in this world?
Yes.
But first…I must contend with my own heart.
But first…I must pluck out the board in my own eye.
But first…I must practice sacrificial, Christ-like love for my enemies.

It is here at this cross roads that I continue my journey…journey

How about you?

Dear Salvation Army, Nativity or Negativity?

It is easy to do.
To dwell upon negative comments.
To feast upon the criticism.
Somethings are just not good enough for anyone.
Let’s face it, you just cannot please everyone all of the time.

But…
why do we allow the negativity of others to penetrate our defenses?
why do we have to have defenses in the first place?
why do we have to constantly be on guard?

In this season of joyful anticipation and as we reflect upon Christ’s birth once more, chances are we will face negativity, harsh comments and barbed words.  It is easy to become jaded during a very arduous season!
Even though this season has been conveniently coined “the season of giving”, sometimes what people give is pain, words that are sharpened to a point, and sadness.  Many times, dear soldier, we work and work and work to help people in need only to face a moment of criticism by someone and it all seems to crash to ground like a house of cards.  Do you know what I’m talking about today?  Have you experienced this?  Perhaps this negativity comes in the form of one we are trying to give generously to who spurns our efforts because it doesn’t meet their standards. Perhaps it comes in the form of a volunteer who criticizes the way that you have organized and led this ragtag group of ‘do-gooders’.   In one fell swoop your anticipation for that ‘warm fuzzies’ in the stomach while helping those in need is left dangling upon an open pit of flames as you utter sarcastically under your breath “thanks a lot!

I hope I’m not painting a scene of hopelessness here today for you.  That is not my purpose in writing this, dear soldier.
My purpose for writing this is to remind us all that we aren’t working for the ‘chin nods‘ and approval of people, we are working (because of faith) in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We are attempting to emulate His selflessness in our sometimes feeble attempts.   That doesn’t mean that we don’t keep the standards high in our preparations and organization, but it does mean that our attempts at helping those in need; our attempts at raising funds and giving love and hope to those without love and hope should be impervious to destructive criticism and harsh judgments upon us.  The reality is that because we have invested and given ourselves completely over to these tasks, we will take these slings and arrows very personally.

A reminder:
Man isn’t your judge in terms of the service that you give to God.
You serve a higher calling.  You are set apart.  You matter.  You have value!
Negativity will come.  Destructive criticism (not to be confused with constructive God-honoring accountability) will come.
We will not please everyone in these efforts of mercy, hope and love.  Some will come to us to rage just because they enjoy raging.

Remember:
It’s sounds cliche’, tired and old, but remember Christ this Christmas.
Don’t get dragged down into the pits of negativity.
Don’t wallow in these places.
They will never make you into the person God has called you to be.
These places will only serve to make you bitter and burned out.
Take time to get away for even a few minutes.
Catch your breath.
Pray.
Feast on His promises.
Remember the birth of Christ.
Read it again.  Chew on the lessons within the text.  Apply humility and love in your responses when all you want to do is rage back.

Dear Soldier, remember 
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

All my work is for the Master,
He is all my heart’s desire;
O that he may count me faithful
In the day that tries by fire!
(SASB 522, chorus)

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

Something to be thankful for? Let’s change that!

What if
life
is less about thismoney

and
more about this –
Family-450x280

what if we actually

LIVED

Like it?

What if this –buy

Became less important…

and this….mom

Became one of our priorities…

became, not something
world

“over there”…

but instead,
something right here….

street

Could we actually

live

this out loud?

could we actually

love

In this way?

I wish I could stop being so

cynical_logo

But I keep seeing the way

that we treat one another

hate

And I wonder
will it ever end?

i-don_t-know

But I hope it ends soon…

How about this….
Let’s  – love1
-Not hate-image

Let’s stop the
selfish

And turn it into this….feet

Just something else to ponder.
Do YOU have something to be
Thankful for?

Dear Salvation Army, Supercharge Your Ministry With Just One Word!

I once had an Officer, whom I greatly admire, tell me the secret to a successful, healthy corps.  Do you wanna know what he said?  Let’s see how long I can prolong the suspense…  okay, suspense over: He told me that there is one crucial ingredient in any ministry that will either make or break you.  That one crucial ingredient is this:  Love.

(Someone cue the Beatles singing “All you need is love”)

Okay, that felt better!

Question:
Do we love those with whom we have been placed to lead?
This is important…pay attention!
(this may be the only question to truly consider today)

The Dilemma:
The Salvation Army ministry as a whole is an often transitory process.  Officers come and go and this isn’t only difficult on the officers who are moved (sometimes faaaaaaaaaaar too quickly), but it is also difficult on the corps leadership as well as the soldiers and adherents.  I might even go out on a limb to say that it has some longer lasting impacts on the corps ministries than it does on the officers who were farewelled and/or recently appointed there.

The dilemma then becomes how can we love something or someone that is transitory?  How can love exist within this plain of ever shifting views, and an ever shifting leadership structure?  Even within divisions and territories when leaderships leave and a new one enters the fray, the vision and plan set forth changes.  So, that being said, how can we love within such an ever changing ministry dynamic?

I will be bold enough right here and now and say that we can’t.
We are not equipped to love so blindly at times, especially when we feel as if the last “move” was not God’s will but rather done politically or out of convenience sake for “the Army”.  Pardon my cynicism here.  Yes, we cannot love enough to replace the hurt and disappointment in our hearts sometimes.

We can’t love…by our own volition.  That being said, we CAN love by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our own love, at times, might take time to become whole again.  Our own love, might come along with us like our transported furniture does sometimes – bruised and broken (thanks movers!).  Our own love will sometimes leave us defeated and lacking enough in the reserves to give anything more to our families, let alone others.

To the counselors out there – don’t tell us to pray more.
don’t tell us that maybe we need to read the Bible
more.
don’t tell us that it’s just a “dry spell” spiritually
don’t tell us that we aren’t doing enough

Supercharge Your Ministry With Just One Word: LOVE…
No one ever said it was going to be easy.
In fact it may be the toughest thing you ever do.
It would be easier to operate from a place of “like” or even just “get the job done”, but it will never be as effective as it would if we fell in love with those we serve and lead.  I mean the kind of love Jesus had for His disciples.  I mean the kind of love the Apostle Paul writes about when he writes to Timothy and other leaders of the faith.

What would it take for us to love those we lead?
What would it take for our hurts to be replaced with healing?
For the broken pieces of our hearts to be put back together?  (The cracks might still be visible for years to come)   What would it take for our wounds to be transformed into healing scars?  You see, these bruises might take time to fade.  What would it take to supercharge our ministry?  Perhaps even that word “supercharge” implies something that we’re not even comfortable with.  Would it take a miracle of the heart?  Would it take a transformational power only the Lord could provide?

Don’t Be Jaded!
It might be easy to become calloused, hardened and cynical.
No one human leadership entity is perfect.  Things will be done to you that were not done with the “Lord’s will” in mind…But at the same time can we still be effective?  Can we still lead with that one word – Love?

Can I be honest?
There are days when I simply don’t know.
There are days when I shake my head at decisions that have been made and can’t help but feel betrayed.  That’s raw, but genuine.

The Truth Is: 
I will never let the Army define who I am.
I serve the Lord first.
I know in whom I have believed!
The things of this world, even the systems in which we serve in are imperfect and sometimes people make mistakes.  But you know what?  I won’t let those mistakes, those “political” decisions, those wrongs that were never reconciled define who I am as a child of the King.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some very wonderful blessings along the way as well that we cannot over look either!  Sometimes there are blessings in disguise and in order to discover them we have to place our all on the altar again and live by faith.  (I know that this is very hard to do)

Can I supercharge my ministry with this one word – Love?
Not by own volition.
But I will through the power that strengthens me, which is the Holy Spirit.

Words of Wisdom Passed Down To Me: 
*  Don’t let anyone, other than the Lord, define who you are or give you a sense of self-worth.
*  Be strong in your convictions and yet, don’t be so convinced of your own self-righteous need to be right all the time.
*  Take time to listen and not just talk.
*  Love those that God has given to you to lead…and when your love isn’t enough, ask for more love that can only be provided through His supernatural power!
*  There is love in healing.
*  Relationships are important crucial to cultivate in a lifetime of ministry.

Something more for this army to ponder today…To God Be The Glory!

Personalizing Homelessness

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Can we identify with those who live on the streets?  I don’t mean hopeless conversations and pre-judgement calls such as “Well, they’re drunks and if I give them money they will just spent it on more booze…” That isn’t identifying with homelessness, that’s passing judgement on them.  Yes, something needs to be done, but casting blame, brow beating and ugly talk will not restore lives.  

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Just this past week, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson called for the removal of the “ugly, stupid anti-homeless spikes” in a modern upscale neighborhood after many took to social media sites to decry this horrific practice and homeless deterrent.  (source: http://rt.com/news/164952-anti-homeless-spikes-remove/) 

Although we can see this as a success in “spreading the word”, we shouldn’t just stop here to rest on our laurels, much work still remains to be done.  

Personalizing Homelessness – breaking the prejudgements:

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Some have argued that these protests against anti-homeless constructions infringe on the rights of the landowners or landlords.  Understandably, this is a concern.  Certainly those who are good stewards of their property wish to maintain a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment for their tenants, but at what cost?  

How are we to care for others while taking care of the properties around us?  This is a troubling issue, and both sides of this argument require consideration.  Yet many times the campaign of driving homelessness from the streets of our cities is something done quietly. Why would it be done quietly? Some may wonder.  The reason is because of fear of public repercussions.  There are times when law enforcement officials are encouraged to drive homeless individuals to locations outside of town and drop them off.  When this type of practice happens we begin to dehumanize people. What is the value of a life today?  Even if that life is smelly, dirty and unhealthy, that person is still human.  

Making it personal: 

Image

What if that person on the street is your brother or sister?  What if that homeless person is a son or daughter?  Wouldn’t you want others to treat them fairly?  Would you want someone to help them?  There are many root causes of homelessness, drugs and alcohol are usually the first things we assume brought them to homelessness, but mental abuse and disabilities are also contributors.  These are the least of these in our communities.  These are people without voices.  What if we made homelessness personal.  What if we humanized these poor wretches for a moment.  I don’t use that term to make them seem “under” me by any means, but how much of a difference does it make to see them as equals to us?  Sure they may be without homes, incomes and families, but are they not still loved by an Almighty God who knows their names and loves them the same as He loves us?  

The difference between apathy and mercy:

Image

There’s a vast difference between these two words.  One speaks of indifference to others while the other speaks of compassion and love.  One is uncaring while the other cares.  Which are we?  Do we see people living on the streets…actually see them?  Is there something that WE can do?  I certainly don’t propose that we go and put ourselves in danger…but there is something we can do to avoid apathy in these situations.  Care.  Find places like The Salvation Army who can go in uniform with many hands to help clothe, feed and show love.  Become involved, volunteer in church groups who minister through soup kitchens and other feeding programs.  One such program is The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread club – http://www.usc.salvationarmy.org/usc/www_usc_detroithl.nsf/vw-text-index/9b2226ecdc63d0518025717f007045c7?opendocument

http://salvationarmynorth.org/community-pages/bed-and-bread-club/

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Contribute to authentic ministries and missions who actually go and help those living on the streets. Make homelessness personal. Each person who sleeps out there under bridges and in the nooks of buildings are still people.  Some of these homeless individuals have family members still looking for them.  We can either construct crude spikes on a street or park bench and drive them from our sight, or we can lend a helping hand without prejudging their motives or intentions.  

Homelessness should be personal to us.  We should care about others, and if we can help…we should. 

 

-Just another thought to ponder. 

Prayer: Lord help me to see others the way that You seen them.  Help me to be an instrument of Your peace.  Remove my prejudgments and prejudices.  Grant me wisdom and love, fill me with Your mercy, and may my hands become Yours.  -Amen.  

Perspectives Day 5.1 “Poetry” – Featuring Commissioner Harry Read “Heart-Talk”

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Heart-Talk

If I but give myself to thee, O Lord,
Roll over on to thee my life and way,
Acknowledge heavenly truth within thy word,
Believe thy love is constant every day

Then will I know the peace that trusting brings,
The power that issues freely from thy hand,
The joy which rises from eternal springs,
The quality of life which thou hast planned.

O grant me, Lord, the wisdom to believe
That life is only life when lived in thee;
Grant me the faith to ask and then receive
The promised life which Christ would live in me.

Shine thou through me thy love and righteousness –
A glow of hope in this world’s hopelessness.

Psalm 37: 5.6
‘Trust in him…he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.’

By Harry Read.
harry read

Is the traditional family close to death? 4 threats that will flatline the family.

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The divorce rate in the United States is at an all time high – 50% and climbing.  For married couples, the busy world around them and the drive to be successful can be both rewarding and detrimental to their relationship.  If that issue were not enough, children within the family structure are facing greater societal pressures and visual/auditory simulations than ever before.  From images and videos on the web to television and online streaming accounts, the standards of moral living and what accepted behavior is, which should be taught by the parents are being contradicted by these outside influences.  

The argument can be made (and rightly so) that it is the parent’s duty to monitor and regulate the “data” consumption of their children yet all too often parents are either too busy working or have little to no interest in correctly parenting their children.  This is just one danger that threatens families today.  A sociological description of this is summed up in the phrase: “if you want to change society tomorrow you must teach the children of today!” The question is, who is teaching our children if the parents are not?  

4 threats that will flatline the family:

1 Societal Pressures: As mentioned above, who is teaching our children and what sort of influences are we allowing to infiltrate our homes?  Sometimes these influences seem innocuous yet just beneath surface there looms a greater threat which could potentially disrupt the teachings of the parents.   I don’t wish to sound like an alarmist or fire the danger flares without a clear sign of danger but parents be aware of what you allow your children to see, hear and do while they live in your home.  You have the greatest power to mold and shape your children, don’t let these outside influences disrupt or distort the godly principles that you are displaying and teaching them!   

2. Busyness: 
Parents, this is a warning to all of us.  Do not let your work and your job become all that you do!  Your first ministry and profession is to be a good parent!  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work, but rather prioritize your schedule where possible in order to be there for your children.  The threat of “busyness” can be translated by your children to mean that they don’t matter to you, they are less important than your work, and this is how they should in turn become parents to their children in the future.  

Do you remember the old song “Cats in the cradle”?  In the chorus there’s that haunting lyric:
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then

You know we’ll have a good time then.”

And the song goes on and the son becomes just like his Dad and never has enough time because he is always busy.  
Spend time with your children.  Don’t let this threat flatline your family and your relationships to your children!  Someday, if we allow the busyness to consume us, we will come to regret all of the broken promises and unfulfilled plans that never happened because we never took the time.  

3.  Materialism: 
This might get personal, am I stepping on anyone’s toes yet?  Good! 
This whole “keeping up with the Jones'” needs to end in our homes!  We run the risk of becoming so “stuff” focused that we lose sight of the precious relationships we have right in front of us.  God gave us these living and breathing miracles to watch over, to teach and to love, and if we are so consumed with “stuff” what will our children see and want to become as well?  There are some things we absolutely need in this life, but then there are those things that we crave and desire and even covet.  Has materialism become an obsession in your household?  There is no doubt that in our media saturated world the “tech craze” has perpetuated our wants over our needs.  It has driven people to spend beyond their means and even at the risk of their families and livelihoods.  If we have become obsessed with stuff, not only do we run the risk of our kids following close behind us in our footsteps but perhaps we have removed God from His rightful place as well.  Does materialism rule you?  Beware of this family threat that could flatline your family.  Perhaps this threat may not flatline you right away, but gradually over time it has the propensity to wreck havoc in your lives and the lives of your children. 

4.  Financial Pressures: 
money
One of the biggest threats to marriages today falls within the realms of finances.  Some of these financial pressures are interconnected with the third threat of materialism.  Families dream of buying that bigger or better house only to find that they have a bigger and harder mortgage to pay per month.  Financial pressures build and create fissures within the marriage relationship.  Married couples have to then work harder and slave over longer hours to help pay for the financial mess they find themselves in.  Along with the housing pressures come the credit card pressures (I’m beginning to sound like Dave Ramsey now).  Credit cards can be useful at times but it can also perpetuate this never ending cycle of debt in some and the dependence on borrowing money that we do not posses to pay off.  “At the end of the second quarter 2013, there was approximately $850 billion in outstanding revolving debt, mainly credit cards.” (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/five-shocking-credit-card-debt-statistics/) 

Here’s another credit card statistic: “the average credit card balance per consumer was recently reported to be $3,779″ (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/average-credit-card-debt/) 

Many families are living from pay check to pay check and at times have become enslaved to their credit card debts because they have overspent and lived without a backup plan and/or financial understanding of realistically “living within their means”.  This isn’t a discussion about poverty or the rich vs. the poor, this is a discussion about understanding how dangerous credit cards and debt in general can be on the family structure.  Financial pressures can be inherited and taught just as moral principles of living can be taught.  This doesn’t mean that all children will emulate their parents all the way into financial woes but certain habitual traits within finances can leave unhealthy blueprints for our children’s future.  

Get out the paddles and jump start the family heart: 

 

paddle2
Spend quality time with your family!  Regulate and filter what your children watch and hear in a media saturated world!  You are the parent so take the time, live like it and share your love and passions (those things that matter) with your family!  Don’t let these threats flatline your family, instead jump start your crew by intentional time and care!  Plan creative family events.  Do a family movie night.  Talk around the dinner table.  Invest in your children and in what they love to do.  Go to their school events when you are able!  Show up, don’t merely attend!  The family is your first ministry.  From your home stems all other avenues of God’s love for the world around you!  Don’t let your family flatline, it’s far too valuable to lose!  

-Just another thought to ponder.  

 

 

 

“Lord, I love you THIS much!”

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“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) 

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Hey Dad guess what“, my son Ethan said as he looked at me with his ocean blue eyes and mischievous smirk.   Okay, I’ll bite, I thought to myself as I smiled back at him.  “What Ethan?”  I asked.  Seeing I had taken the bait, Ethan’s eyes lit up and his smirk broke out into a full smile as he quickly replied rather loudly “I LOVE YOU!” 

It is a game that we like to play.  We attempt to catch each other off guard with a simple question like “Guess what?”  As far as I can remember my Grandfather started this game and it is still going on today.  Truth be told, Ethan is rather good at it and at times he blindsides me with his spontaneous expressions of love.  

-Expressions of love-

What do our expressions of love look like when it comes to our Heavenly Father?  Does He receive our “first fruits” of love or just the left-overs?  When asked about the commandments and which was the most important, Jesus said “The most important one is this:…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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Do we understand realistically how important our love for God truly is?  Without this “first love” as our reference point all other ‘loves’ (including people) cannot be fully realized!  Jesus doesn’t just say “love God” but He goes on to say “With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (it is known as the Shema or “hear”).  In other words our expressions of love to God and the way we express THAT love is to be all or nothing.  This love is to be complete or completely useless.  Jesus’ usage of the word “ALL” means we must employ EVERYTHING in order to express our love to God.  From that love relationship with and to God, we can then begin to love those around us even those who we have deemed ‘unlovable’.  

How much? 

How much do we love the Lord our God?  How much have we expressed that love to Him?
Are we holding anything back?  Are we giving Him our first fruits of love?  
Can we say to the Lord: “Guess what? Lord, I love you THIS much!” as our arms are outstretched as far as they can possibly go?  
The depth of our expressions of love to God will determine the depth of love that we are able to show to those around us.  How is your love today?  

-Just something more to ponder.  

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