Ponder Cast #10 “Others”

General William Booth’s last words were “Others”.
Give this podcast a listen today “Others” Podcast

May we be continually challenged by the Holy Spirit to serve others and share the good news of Salvation with them where ever we go!

Dear Salvation Army, When Orders And Regulations Get In The Way…

early churchActs 151,2,7-11Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers:“Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question…After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

I am not sure who these “certain people” were…but today I wonder if our “certain people” wear uniforms and act the part of the pharisee from time to time.  I don’t wish to sound judgmental…truth be told, we have all played this role a time or two…and we’re not proud of it (I hope).

early church1The Early Church
There were certain fundamentalists within the early church; rule abiders, standard bearers, orders and regulation holders.  When new comers (Gentiles) came to the faith proclaiming to be Christ-followers, these traditionalists demanded they be made practicing Jews in every way including circumcisions (yowza!).   You see, in order for these new comers to be accepted as members of the faith in the eyes of these traditionalists, they had to change everything about themselves.  The law had to be upheld, and these stiff regulations followed to the letter.   It was practically impossible for these Gentile followers to obey the law completely.  In essence these “certain people” were setting them up for failure.

Grace & Law
8 “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9)

Peter tells it like it is to those gathered in Jerusalem.
We are given the Holy Spirit…He purifies our hearts.  We do not need additional ritualistic practices or outward performances to meet regulations of salvation.  We have been saved through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have been purified through and through.

Do Orders And Regulations Get In The Way?  soldiers4
Yes.  At times.
Sometimes, even in The Salvation Army, we can get so caught up in the law and the ritualistic practice of the law that we can lose sight of a grace that purifies and transcends common practice.  Are new comers joining our Army?  Do they understand this Army?  Are we helping them to understand our forms of worship?  Do we lose them because of lack of grace, compassion, judgement, appropriateness?

I am not advocating anarchy, in fact just the opposite.
Could it be that the grace of the Holy Spirit is all the law we need?  I am not saying that we throw out our orders and regulations…but do we hold far too tightly to these?  Have they become our “Jewish law”?  In order for visitors to truly believe and worship as Salvationists, do they have to meet our requirements of dress and practice?

Sound Doctrine?…yes…Rigid Rules?…no.
Photo Nov 13, 10 39 28 AMAgain we should be mindful, as Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James were in Acts 15 of the trappings of ridged Law abiding practices that strangles growth.  The Apostles didn’t say that they were throwing out sound doctrines, but they did loosen the stiff regulations for Gentiles coming to the faith.

Questions:
Can new people & visitors truly come to your corps “as they are”?
Do we judge new comers based on their appearance and practice?
Have we lost potential soldiers and even officers because we rigidly follow our orders and regulations and “accepted” practices in worship (excluding foundational doctrinal beliefs)?
Do we really mean for new Christians or would be Christians to “come as they are” into our Holiness meetings and Salvation Meetings?
Are we exhibiting grace, love and compassion to the “whosoever”?
Have we ever discriminated (consciously or subconsciously) people because they didn’t fit OUR Salvationist mold?

Warning: Don’t Get In The Way!
Don’t be the “certain people” found in Acts 15.
Our world already contains enough judgement, condemnation and discrimination.  If the Church The Salvation Army cannot be a beacon of hope, grace and holiness, then a I fear we will have lost our way and God help us if we turn away individuals because they aren’t “our kind of people“.

The Remedy: 
If you have been a part of the “certain people“…I pray you can reconcile yourself once more to His grace and love.  Ask Him once again to soften your heart.  Ask the Lord to make you holy.  True growth of our Army begins upon our knees in penitence as we seek to be inclusive of the whosoever regardless if they wear a uniform or look just like you and me.

Prayer:  Lord make us holy.  Set us apart for your missions here on earth.  May we seek to love and to serve everyone regardless of their differences.  Give us your eyes so that we may see others the way you see them.  May we exude your grace, peace, love and acceptance of those who are so desperately in need of these qualities here on earth.  May we be your people who will help usher in your kingdom here on earth today through our faith in action.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

-Something more for our Army world to ponder today.

Additional reading on this topic for your consideration:
Cookie Cutter Christians
Christians and Racism?
When Christians Get It Wrong

“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.  

“The Jesus Fan Club”

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Perhaps you’ve seen the bible study or read some books which ask the question are you a “Fan” or are you a “Follower” of Jesus?  A fan would be one who sits on the sidelines, cheers (also complains when things aren’t going the way they expect them to go) but never really gets onto the field to do any of the real labor within the realms of faith.  

I don’t mean to rail against the Church…well maybe I do a little.  This isn’t about not loving people, actually it’s quite the opposite.   What can we do to change the perception of the Church?  What can we do to change the perception of the “Fan Club”?

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1.  It begins with You & Me:

We can’t change the polarizing views of some people who use the name “Christian” but do not act like Christians.  BUT we can change the way that we conduct ourselves and how we live in community with those around us.  It has to begin with you and me!  Without this internal determination to change, the “Fan club” wins.  

2. Move with Love:

When we allow it to begin with us and allow the Holy Spirit to move us we can’t but help to love and serve.  It’s about loving and serving the Almighty as well as loving and serving other people around us.  Faith has to have feet in order for it to change lives including our own.  We aren’t merely fans of Jesus, we MUST be His followers.  Love compels us forward even into places that we would never consider going because it is no longer about “Me” but it’s about “Him”.  

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We can tear down these walls that separate the Church from the “real world”…but it means that we can’t just take shelter in our buildings and presume people will find us.  Jesus didn’t hang out in temples for the entirety of His ministry here on Earth, He went to people, and if we are to be like Him, if we are to follow Him then we  ought to go to people too!  

Jesus doesn’t need anymore fans…He needs followers who are willing to do the hard work, not because hard work will get us into heaven, but rather because we have put feet with our faith.  Are you ready to move?  

-Just a thought.  

Knowing or Trusting?

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“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”…“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13, 15-16) 

Jesus looked at His followers and asked them a detailed demographic question.  It was a survey of sorts.  “Who do people say the Son of man is?”  In other words who do they think I am?  Jesus, more than likely already knew what others thought of Him and who He might be, but He asked His disciples.  Why did He do that?  Why ask if He already knew the answers?  

Perhaps the reason Jesus asked His disciples this question was to help them finally pin down who Jesus was in their hearts and minds.  He first asks them about how others viewed Him.  It is an the greater perspective, but then Jesus brings it back to them when He said, “But who do YOU say that I am?”  Notice the personal question.  Now the tables have turned.  Now the disciples are glancing at each other hoping someone will answer first.  It is one of the most pivotal moments in their spiritual education as Jesus’ disciples.  This one solitary moment of internal reflection.  It is a moment that causes each disciple to carefully inspect what He has done and what He has said.  For but a moment, doubt and worry must have clouded their minds. For but a moment each individual, not the collective, considered the right words to say to Jesus. It was mere moments but it could have been a lifetime.  

Is it no surprise that Peter is the one to speak?  He was the disciples that climbed out of the boat when all of the others waited and watched Jesus walking on the waves.  The same Peter who seemingly dove head first into anything he did.  It was all or nothing with Peter.  So Peter speaks up and nails Jesus’ identity for the group gathered there.  “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God“.  Can you say hashtag #nailedit ?  Peter solidifies for the rest of the disciples as he identifies Jesus.  It’s been nearly three years that they have been together, didn’t they already know?  Didn’t they already trust THE Rabbi?  

I think the question here that begs to be asked for us today is this:  “Who do we think Jesus is?” Can we quickly respond as Peter did?  Can we identify Jesus as God’s Son and Messiah to us as well?  Is He your Messiah?  

You see I believe there is a big difference between knowing Jesus and trusting Jesus!  James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.”  You could substitute the word ‘believe’ for the word ‘know’.  Even the demons know Jesus.  That is a big difference from fully trusting in Him though.  Trusting Jesus means that we have to let go of our preconceived notions.  It means that we have to relinquish our self-reliance.  It means that we have to place our faith in something other than ourselves or something seen…but in the unseen.  

Do you trust the Son of God?  Have you let go of your casual understanding of Him?  Are you prepared to delve into the waters of faith?  Don’t just settle for knowing Jesus, trust Him also!  Peter declared boldly “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”; may we have this same boldness in our faith to do likewise today!  

-Just a thought for today.

  • Simply trusting every day;
    Trusting through a stormy way;
    Even when my faith is small,
    Trusting Jesus, that is all.
  • Trusting as the moments fly,
    Trusting as the days go by,
    Trusting Him, whate’er befall,
      Trusting Jesus, that is all.

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