“Perspectives” Day # 3 Featuring Captain Shanais Strissel

What is tradition and why do some of us cling tightly to it and some of us find it suffocating?  Why is there such a struggle between being something new and holding tightly to something old?  Is tradition or newness best for the Corps?

The answer is yes to both.

I think that in order to find what’s best for the church, within the Salvation Army, both camps must loosen their death grips and come to see that the answer lies within each claim, just in an unexpected way.
Jesus was the master at taking something old and renewing it.  Not remaking it, but renewing it.

And I believe the answer to why our churches are dying lies within the struggle to come to terms with the unexpected, because if we do not come to terms with the unexpected, I am afraid that we may go the way of the Pharisees and leaders of the law.  Are we to become something that a church history class studies in a hundred years from now, a charitable entity who faded away into irrelevancy because we just couldn’t grasp the way of the unexpected?

Jesus was always doing things that upset the religious leaders, healing on the Sabbath (how dare he) not fasting (how un-Jewish of him) telling the Pharisees they are dirty unwashed bowls (gasp), what in the world is this man doing?
He was not remaking the law; he was renewing how the people saw it.  They had taken something simple and made it complicated and unwieldy.  They made it difficult for God’s work to be done because of all the, ahem, addendums that they added to it….

It is not that the old ways where bad in themselves, but the way that people applied them over the years that made it into something that it was not intended to be.
It happens.  People muck things up from time to time and God has to shake things back into the rightful place.  The question to ask ourselves is, are we going to move with God when he shakes this Army or will we get left behind as God moves his mission forward in this world?

So…what’s the answer?…

The answer, I believe, lies in the unexpected.

Jesus’ actions were always consistent with the law, just in different and unexpected ways.  He observed the ritual but took the meaning of the law and expanded and enriched it!  The Pharisees and religious leaders had it backwards; they took the ritual and expanded it while ignoring the richness and meaning of the law in the first place.

And here is what I believe has become a stumbling block for the Salvation Army.  We don’t need more ritual a.k.a more “growth” programs, more paperwork, more ritual, more law, what we need is a deeper richer meaning to the simple foundation of what make the Salvation Army who it already is.

We do not need to get rid of our rich traditions, but we do need to get rid of all of the baggage that hinders the mission.

Somewhere we lost our simplicity of mission among the mounds of responsibility heaped onto Officers backs, and I mean all Officers not just Corps Officers.  We have spread ourselves so thin that we are in danger of becoming shallow and useless, instead of deep and rich.

I am not calling for a revolution of the Salvation Army, what I am asking you to consider is a re-evaluation of who we already are.  Not to remake the whole system but to pull out and expand what is good and to keep it SIMPLE!  Let go of the complicated extended busy work and enrich and deepen what is good!  Don’t extend the shallow and complicate the simple!

Jesus’ way is simple and his burden is light, it’s his followers who tend to weigh things down.

So, how do we figure it out?  How do we come together as an organization and deepen, enrich, simplify and give deep meaning to the traditions we already have, how do we embrace the unexpected?

That is something that we have to figure out together.

Let’s let God Shake us up shall we?

“Perspectives” Day # 2 Featuring Colonel Dennis Strissel “Opinion8ed #6”

Photo Jan 05, 4 13 24 PMOpinion–8-ed

(A series of eight installments)

Number Six – Mulligans for Ministry

Having been preoccupied with our new appointment (retired), with plenty of time for thought amid the unpacking and putting up pictures, I thought that I might dedicate my final three installments to what I would focus on in my ministry if I had a “do-over”. Maybe a more appropriate term might be a Mulligan for Ministry. Yes, that’s what I would like. What would I do differently if I had the chance? I’m not talking about the mistakes I made, and I have made more than my fair share. Nope. This is more about what I would invest more time and energy in if I had an opportunity for a ministry mulligan.

First would be to pay closer attention to those important influencers in my life. Father, grandfather, teachers, local officers with greater life experience than me with a willingness to share life-wisdom. I can count more than a dozen important influencers/mentors that have taken me under their wing; those who have helped me make many life decisions over the last forty-one years. My regret is a lack of awareness of my need of good mentors early on in the ministry.

Like most, there were some confusing issues and experiences that brought doubt and fear early on in ministry. How much easier it might have been with a mentor guiding me through those events and experiences, reminding me that things will become clearer and brighter as we grow through tough times. There were times when a “Dutch Uncle” approach would have been good with a mentor saying “get on with it” or “get over it”! Mostly, though, I needed someone to challenge me to holy living and growing in grace… No, they needed to demonstrate by example how to do that and insist that I follow their example.

Some of my greatest influencers were local, non-commissioned, officers. To begin to name any of them would be a dis-service, since I’m bound to leave a couple out. I recall returning to a corps I soldiered at before entering the Training College, returning with my “red” epaulettes to hear and see the reaction of the Corps Sergeant Major, (senior lay position of the church). His expression and embrace didn’t disappoint me…in fact, it gave me great encouragement. When feeling alone and almost defeated, I would replay that moment in my head. It helped me keep my focus knowing that I had cheerleaders somewhere.

It wasn’t always the divisional officers that kept my spirit afloat … and we had many good divisional officers. Nope. I loved being near and learning from senior corps officers within the division. Some had never served in a divisional headquarters appointment yet they had great life experience that they were willing to share with “younger” officers. THANK GOD for the likes of older captains, majors and brigadiers and their willingness and faithfulness to share. They are the un-sung Army heroes.

Sharon and I had the privilege to serve for many years outside our territory and home country. We met many wise, talented, and obedient believers, many were soldiers and officers but others were pastors and lay leaders of other churches. You discover quickly once outside your home country that in order to live, not merely survive, you need close and lasting relationships. We are better people and leaders as a result of who we leaned on and learned from. We would have never even survived living on the Island of St. Helena without the mentorship and fellowship of friends from the Catholic, Anglican, Baptist or Seventh Day Adventist Churches.

Who we are today is a composite of all of those who have loved, led and mentored us….still I feel as though I needed a more attentive heart and mind and a learning spirit. If I could have one, I would ask for a mulligan, a do-over, wanting to listen more carefully or ask different questions. I suspect I’m no different than anyone reading this short article. It motivates me now to pay closer attention during the time left in this world and to invest myself in as many young leaders who will allow me their ear. The good news is there is still time for us all. To borrow a phrase from the author of the Revelations… “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:7NIV).

Dennis Strissel, Colonel

Previous “Opinion8ed” Articles:
Opinion8ed #1
Opinion8ed #2
Opinion8ed #3
Opinion8ed #4
Opinion8ed #5

Perspectives Day 1 Featuring Captain Andy Miller III

On “Changing the Army”

A loyal soldier approached me, it was clear he had something important to say. It was Sunday and the holiness meeting had just finished. His index finger was pointed right at me and with an agitated tone he said, “Your goal must be to kill the Army. You are trying to change everything!” Kill? I think not. Advocate for change to advance the fight? Absolutely.

In contrast, a few years ago I received a phone call from a well-known Salvationist writer asking me to contribute a chapter to a volume on Salvation Army doctrine that would feature  “liberal” and “conservative” opinions on a variety of theological issues. He said, “We are looking for a solid conservative voice like yours.” That volume never came out, and I was too busy changing diapers, so I declined.

So what gives? Am I conservative or progressive? Do I want to change everything, or remain parked with the status quo? It depends on whom you ask.  My experiences have led me to ask, “In what way can, or should, we change the Army?”

In full disclosure, I am a person who loves intra-Army discussions and am invigorated by change. Hence, I am writing this article for Scott Strissel and indulging myself as I do so.  I enjoy expressing my passions about the Army so much that I have found it to be a temptation for me. However, my efforts to “change the Army” shouldn’t keep me from “being the Army” while living out my covenant.

While at training, a staff officer said to a group of Cadets, “If you think you became an officer to change the Army, you are in the wrong place [officership, training college, etc.].” There are several ways to think about what is involved in “changing the Army.”

One way to enter these discussions is to list “non–negotiables,” as did General Clifton and General Rader. They have been helpful for my understanding of Salvation Army theology and practice. So when considering change you can ask yourself, “Are any of these values compromised in the process?” Other methods use mission statements, branding promises, or core values to achieve a similar response to proposed changes. For the Salvationist, and particularly the Officer, I suggest Covenant-centered change. If a simple test had to be administered it should be this, go look at your Soldier’s Covenant (Articles of War) and ask, “Is this change in conflict with what I covenanted with God?”

What is it that has formed the essence of the church’s beliefs throughout its history; we could describe this as the canon or orthodoxy. The Army’s canon is most fully summarized in the covenant we share. It is expounded and clarified through Handbooks of Doctrine, Song Books, Year Books, and other publications.

Do some of these articles (doctrines) need nuancing? Probably, but that does not mean they need to change?  We need to explain what we mean by “…the divine rule…” We need to shade “total depravity” with prevenient grace. We need to carefully discuss and elaborate on what being “wholly sanctified” is and is not. We need to clarify that we are not platonic philosophers as we present a Christian version of “immortality of the soul.” It could be an American stylistic bias, but I wouldn’t mind gender neutrality in the human pronouns. These pieces are all consistent with how the Army does theology and I don’t think they need, or should, change.

There are areas where I desire to see the Army change. I would love to see a renewed understanding of how we approach training and the connection therein to officer recruitment. A more nuanced conversation on sacraments would be helpful and welcomed. We probably need to do better in understanding the complexities of the marriage relationship in officership and how the dynamics of shared and separate appointments can work. The uniform and its use should be updated or changed as we seek to be a visible people. I have at times found myself helpfully and humbly corrected by experienced officers who have helped shape and refine my “ideas.”

The biggest change I would like to see is this – more soldiers, more corps, and more officers, bringing more people to Christ’s saving grace. This is a necessary change.

Changes that call us to redefine marriage, cut certain articles of our faith, reject original sin, deny the substitutionary nature of the cross, get rid of our name, become a formal high church that is a liturgically drenched denomination or embracing universalism all are changes that move us away from a centered identity, these changes are outside of the scope of Covenant-centered change. These changes are instead, Covenant-rejecting changes.
So what of those changes? First, questions lead to answers and we need to ask good questions to get to good answers. When I was learning to swim in the discipline of theological studies, I had to work through each article of faith. When I came up for air I discovered a richness in Army theology that humbled me.

Second, if you come up for air in your search for truth and are resolutely opposed to the Army’s theology and you can no longer affirm the covenant, and if you are trying to make changes that move away from the canon of Salvation Army teaching or Covenant-centered change, I wonder if you should find another institution in which to serve. I say that not in cruelty or anger, but in love. These things will not change in the Army. I am no psychologist, but I think your life would be much more fulfilled in another movement if this is the sort of change you seek.

A wise senior officer, who taught many years at the training college, described his approach in teaching the doctrines in our covenant. “Andy, I am not telling Cadets what they should believe, I am expanding on what they have covenanted their lives to believing and teaching.”

If the changes I desire remain unchanged, then I trust God. Continued growth and relevance is contingent on our ability to adapt to our changing world. However, that change must be centered in the covenant which unites every Salvationist.

Forward to the Fight!,

Andy Miller III

Check out my book, Holistic Hospitality: A Bridge to a Future Army, via this the link here.

Miller

Perspectives Day #5 Featuring Commissioner Harry Read

HarryMany within the realms of Facebook and other social media sites have been blessed and encouraged in reading poems and thoughts by Commissioner Harry Read.  He also has written books and here are a few of them: Books by Harry Read
To read more about Commissioner Read also check out this interview link:  JAC Interview

Without further adieu allow me to introduce two encouraging and thought provoking poems by Commissioner Harry Read:
heart talk
Heart-Talk

OUR SHEPHERD GOD

The heart of God is wounded by the lost,
Not just because his chosen way they scorn
Or that his love towards them has been tossed
Aside, as though of worth and meaning shorn.

Their lost-ness he can never disregard,
Their waywardness and sin to him are pain,
And should they find life easy or too hard
He yearns and yearns to have them back again.

He is a Father-God with Shepherd heart
Who, through his Spirit searches for his own.
From his own erring lambs he will not part;
He wants us all around his heavenly throne.

Our Shepherd God is searching everywhere
To bring his flock within his loving care.

Matthew 18: 10-14
The parable of the lost sheep.

With every blessing,
Harry

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Heart-talk

OUR PERSECUTED BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE FAITH.

O LORD, We pray for those who suffer for your name,
Who walk the path of persecution, stress and pain.
Deliver them from doubt, let hope within them flame
And use them, Lord, let not their trial be in vain
And, through their faith-full fortitude, your love proclaim.

Matthew 5: 10-12
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness…”.

With every blessing,
Harry
30.09.13

Perspectives Day #4 Featuring Major Stephen Court

“Can DisCo Save The World?”
by Major Stephen Court

“There’s a party goin’ on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you.”
Kool and the Gang, 1980

The 70s were a little ahead of my time. The earliest Disco hit I remember was 1980 song CELEBRATION.

Disco had a massive impact on western culture.

With the monotony of routine church life, many Christians could use a splash of the party atmosphere Kool and the Gang celebrates.

When western Christianity escapes the temptations of spiritual consumerism and church buffet a different kind of DISCO can save the world.

Our DISCO stands for discipleship covenant.

These DISCO groups are sprouting in different spots in many cities around the salvosphere as soldiers and recruits join together to support each other in the salvation war. ‘So bring your good times, and your laughter here.’

Covenant is a serious thing. And we don’t want to tie people up unnecessarily. So DISCO participants commit for a short period of time – normally one to three months – to hold each other accountable for certain things. The novel wrinkle in this discipleship exercise is that each member of the groups determines the things for which s/he wants to be held accountable.

That is, there isn’t some uniform standard imposed on everyone. So a group can contain a brand new convert and a long-time follower of Jesus, as each person is vulnerable and accountable for certain activities and practices for the committed time. Everyone advances at your own pace, from your own status quo.

So, one person might want to be held accountable to fast two days/week and do a silent retreat once a month while another member might need help to do rations every day, exercise a few times/week, and read a good book during the DISCO.

And everyone benefits. Members pray for each other, support each other, and help each other. ‘We’re gonna celebrate your party with you.’

DISCO works best face-to-face. But it is also proven to work online. And it normally happens with the same gender.

The thing is, a good DISCO, though it may last only 90 days, will change the lives of its participants. It’s ‘a celebration to last throughout the years.’

And as those participants spin off DISCO after DISCO in corps after corps and city after city and territory after territory, we can legitimately ask, Can DISCO save the world?

And I think you know our answer.

Here’s a generic example:

DISCIPLESHIP COVENANT
To align ourselves with the heart and purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ, to prepare for the plans He has, and to optimize the opportunities He is presenting us, we are committing to the following disciplines over the next month:

On a daily basis to:
Seek His will in our decision-making and then be accountable to each other for the action based on that will;
Make myself available to help the other fulfill God’s will in his life;

On a weekly basis:
To witness/evangelise in a continuing manner as best as I can;
To intentionally seek evangelistic opportunities;
To intentionally encourage others at our Corps;
To pray for the burdens and trials each of us is experiencing in an extraordinary manner;
To participate in worship and discipleship;
To be able to encourage each other in a firm and loving manner, to grow in grace, and to extend our Kingdom impact;
To encourage and keep each other accountable in living holy lives;

Bobby’s specifics:
To disciple ______ (including rations; memory work; evangelism; sometimes worship).
To do ____ of rations daily.
To memorise _____ of Scripture each week.
To evangelise each week.
To exercise XX/week.
To go avoid porn sites / magazines.
To treat women like my kid sister.
To avoid being alone with a female.
To avoid being alone with someone who is still using.
To volunteer at the corps XX/week.

Signed: ___________ date: _____

Bart’s specifics:
To do daily family devotions.
To read XX chapters of the Bible daily.
To do daily chores.
To tithe my pay cheque to God on Sundays.
To read one Christian book this month (one we agree on).
To attend my brigade each week (and call the other members in between)
To prayerfully consider soldiership.

Signed: ___________ date: ______

Perspectives Day #3 Featuring Major Leti Crowell

Perspective on God’s Timing- Is He Slow or is He Patient?

Ingredients of the Soul

2 Peter 3:9 (New Living Translation)

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Value Meal

John Wesley says this about God; “Therefore “he is long-suffering:” he gives us space for repentance, without any inconvenience to himself.” How wonderful to know that God always wants the best for us. So what is the best for us and how is repentance best for us? He wants all His children to enter the Kingdom. I look at it this way, when I make a mistake, big or small it changes me for the worse and I feel horrible and full of remorse, so when I ask God to forgive me I not only ask Him to forgive me, I ask Him to change me and not back to how I was before my mistake but to change me and make me even better. It’s simple, I want to practice living my life here on earth as I will live it in heaven. God wants that for all of us, to change us for the better to not be destroyed and wind up in eternal hell but to have an eternal life in the kingdom of His Heaven. We can never understand God’s timing in the moment of our petitions to Him but we do come to realize His timing when our petitions have been answered. How wonderful to know that he is not being slow but being patient on our behalf His promise will happen in His time and when it does we must be ready.

Prayer

Dear God, How amazing it is to me that you are patient for us. A thousand years is to one day for you. You give us chance after chance to get it right. Thank you for sending your Son our only way to you so that we can confess our sins to Him. Amen.

Perspectives Day #2 Featuring Captain Deb Thompson

“CREATION STORY”
By Captain Deb Thompson

“The Canvas And Paint Already Existed, But… The Painting Was Created”

            I was raised in a home that taught that all Scripture was to be taken literally.  It seems like a popular way of interpreting Scripture.  It’s also an extremely dangerous way of interpreting, especially when a specific passage was intended by the author to be read differently.  For example, one such passage that is often taken literally, in a desire to refute science, is the first chapter of Genesis.  This chapter was never written to be taken literally, nor was it ever meant to argue Evolution in its original context.

Currently, I’m taking a college course in Pentateuch and it has challenged me to look at Creation in a completely new way, by looking at it through the eyes of the original readers.

The first thing to note is that creation stories involving deity/deities were not rare in the Ancient Near East.  Mesopotamian, Akkadian, and Egyptian were cultures that had their own creation stories as well, just to name a few.  The sole purpose of creation stories was to answer the big questions of life, “Do/does gods/God exist?”, “Why is there a human race?”, and “Do/does gods/God interact with humanity?”  Genesis 1, in the form of the Creation Story, gives us the answers to these questions.

The first two verses of Genesis were extremely eye-opening for me.  I grew up hearing that verse 2 is where we see the fall of Satan, although, there is no mention of Satan falling out of Heaven in this passage or anywhere else in The Bible, for that matter.  One thing we want to take into account is that in the Ancient Near East, people weren’t interested in the structure of the Earth, as much as they were interested in the function of the Earth.  Therefore, the original readers wouldn’t have read Genesis 1 to tell them how the Earth came into existence (as we read it in our culture today), but instead, they would have read Genesis 1 to tell them about what the Earth’s functions and roles were.  Most importantly, the Earth’s function was to be God’s Temple where God’s people were to worship and serve Him.  Later, in the Old Testament, we see this concept illustrated by the Tabernacle and then through the three Temples.  This order, function, and role came out of chaos, or as the second verse states, had been “formless…empty… darkness… deep”.

Next, let’s move onto the word, “create”.  “Create”, in the original Hebrew is “bara” which means to, “create, shape, form”.  When we read the word, “create” we often confuse it with the word, “manufacture”.  Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch explains the difference between these two words with the example of art.  We manufacture paints and canvases, but to paint a picture is to create a function and purpose for the paints and the canvases, and to create a painting is the role of an artist.  Therefore, the manufactured item is the day and night, but the function of it is time, and the purpose of time is to fill it with worship and service to God.  Therefore, to create time was the role of the Almighty God, and He is powerful enough to create time out of the pre-existing chaos.  The original readers would not have read this as a structured 24 hour period being manufactured, but rather to answer what was the function and purpose God created for the 24 hour period.  

Another intriguing phrase to look at in the Creation Story is, “and God saw that it was good.”  Throughout the book of Genesis we read God “seeing” and in response “providing” for those He saw.  One example is in Genesis 16 with the story of Hagar and the near death of Ishmael from thirst while in the desert.  Hagar names Elohim as “the God who sees me” and she names the water well, which was provided for Ishmael, “Beer Lahai Roi” respectfully.

At first glance, having a God who sees may not seem too important; however, I think there is something extremely significant in it.  I have a passion for Deaf Ministry, and something I have read in several places is that sometimes Deaf can feel like they cannot communicate with God because us hearing people like to use clichés such as, “hearing God’s voice”, “listening to God” and “taking time to speak to God”.  However, to inform a Deaf person that God sees us, then communication is provided for everyone.  There’s significance in knowing that God not only hears us, but sees us too!

The second half of the phrase tells us that what God saw was good.  I had always thought this meant that it was good for God; however, that isn’t why it was good.   This phrase isn’t listed after everything that was created, only things that were created good for mankind.  For example, after the creation of light and after the creation of land, it is said to be good because it is beneficial for mankind.

God creates man and woman in His image.  Man and woman have the roles of ruling over creation (fish, birds, animals, etc…) and to multiply.  Humanity was also created to commune and have relationship with God.  This is important because other creation stories (as discussed earlier) have other purposes for humanity, such as one saying that humanity are to be slaves to the gods, alone.  To have a relationship with God was pretty unique to the Genesis 1 story.

Well, actually, there are a lot of things that are unique about the Creation Story of Genesis 1 that we don’t find in other creations stories.  For example, our Creation Story is monotheistic, meaning “one God”.  And since it’s monotheistic, it’s a peaceful, beautiful, and simple story.  All other creation stories were polytheistic, meaning “many gods”.  Their creation stories are complex and tell of wars and violence between the gods.  Genesis 1 starts out with, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth…”  There is no explanation of where God came from because He wouldn’t be confused with other gods, and more so, because He is eternal.  Other cultures had to give an explanation of where their gods began.

In conclusion, the number one purpose of the Creation Story found in Genesis 1 was to be theological and to teach the Jews about the Hebrew God and the functions, purposes, and roles He gives to creation.  Genesis 1 was not written to teach of the structure or the manufacturing of creation.  If we take this passage literally, we miss out on theology and a deep understanding of God that sets the tone for the rest of Genesis, and consequently, the rest of The Bible.

In conclusion, I believe science explains the manufacturing of Earth, and Genesis gives Earth a purpose and function.  I believe science answers how the Earth is structured, and Genesis tells me how it functions.  I believe science tells me how it all began, but Genesis tells me what the purpose of it all is.  I believe science cannot answer Genesis’ questions and Genesis’ question cannot answer science’s questions.  I believe science and Genesis complement one another.

I am the heart, You are the heartbeat

I am the eyes, You are the sight

I see clearly I am just the body, You are the life

I move my feet I go through the motions, but You give purpose a chance

I am the dancer; You are the Lord of the Dance

–“Lord of the Dance”, Steven Curtis Chapman–

Perspectives Day #1 – Featuring Colonel Marlene Chase

Happy the Thankful Heart

By Marlene J. Chase

       Thanksgiving was often a legalistic maneuver when I was growing up. One was to be grateful because it was the polite thing to do. Besides, you should be grateful because somewhere someone didn’t have what you had. If spinach was served for dinner, you were to be grateful because starving children in the developing world would do somersaults just to have a spoonful.  If something bad happened, we were urged to be grateful because there was always someone worse off. Who has not been reminded of the man who complained that he had no shoes until he met a man who had no feet?

“Blow, north wind, blow,” my mother would quote with tiresome frequency, “thou art not half as cruel as ingratitude.” There were times when we thought nothing was quite as cruel as its positive counterpart.

A Faulty Focus

Perhaps these are the misconceptions of spoiled children. But lack of gratitude always comes from improper focus—looking at the gift rather than the giver. Thankless people covet the gifts God provides but seldom seek to know Him. If we were to fully grasp the truth of who He is in all his majesty, we would find a lifetime insufficient for expressing our gratitude.

We have all met people who appear to have nothing and yet are uncompromisingly grateful. Like Mattie who, after losing all her family and becoming ill herself, ended up in a sub-standard nursing facility. As corps officers in a small Kansas city, we took her to church every Sunday, for which she thanked us profusely to the point of becoming tiresome.

When someone complained about dandelions on the lawn, Mattie exulted in the lemony loveliness of their color and stooped to pick one as though it were an exotic orchid. When she became too ill to attend church and was confined to her bed, she praised God that she could glimpse the sunshine through her small, square window.

Alexandr Solzenhitsyn, Russian novelist, imprisoned for speaking out against an oppressive government, wrote, “Bless you, prison, for being in my life.” He looked beyond his circumstances to the One who charged his life with meaning. In embracing Christ, he found reason for lasting joy and gratitude.

A Natural Outcome 

Gratitude is a natural outcome of living a life focused on the Provider of all good gifts.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created” (James 1:17-18).

If the nine ungrateful lepers who were cleansed had been focusing on the Giver of their health rather than on the gift itself, they would have experienced a thankful heart, blessing that would last forever. Their physical health came with no such guarantee. They didn’t bother to thank Jesus for healing because they were too absorbed with the gift and totally neglected the Giver. But the one who returned to give glory to God received a greater gift.

Paul sang hymns of praise in prison and joyfully thanked God from the bow of a shipwrecked vessel. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” he wrote (Phil. 4:11). He had learned the secret of life—placing hope in the one true Constant in the midst of ungovernable and unceasing change.

A Constant Hope 

Health, wealth, the love of family and friends can all be gone in an instant. In one day, Job lost his children, all his worldly possessions and his health. If his hope for life and living had been placed in these transient tangibles, he could not have said of God, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

“Blow, north wind, blow. Thou art not half so cruel as ingratitude.” Blow, wind of God through hearts focused on the Giver of every good gift. The radiant Presence that settles within will make us triumphant over every cruel circumstance and bring us at last to God who is our constant hope.
***Marlene Chase is a writer, editor, speaker and author, and retired Salvation Army Officer.  Her works can be found online via Amazon Books and other online sources.***

Perspectives: Featuring Eric Bicknell – “The Glory Days To Come”

Photo Jan 27, 12 33 51 PM
THE ‘GLORY DAYS’ TO COME
Why is that when people refer to the ‘Glory Days’ of The Salvation Army, or any church for that matter, why is it they are always referring to them in the past? What about the ‘Glory Days’ to come? Are we expecting them? Are we working to make them happen? Why does the term ‘Glory Days’ always refer to the past?

I think in some respects its alright for us to look into the past, see the past victories, and remember the sacrifices made by those gone before us that have made it possible for US to continue the mission they started. We look back with fondness at the characters that form the story of The Salvation Army. Characters like the Booths [all of them, William, Catherine and the kids], Railton, Booth-Tucker, Joe The Turk, Ashbarrel Jimmy, Eliza Shirley, and Samuel Brengle, just to name a few. People who gave their lives and dedicated their talents to the expansion of the Kingdom of God through the ministry of The Salvation Army. We look back at the courage and determination of the countless officers and soldiers who literally fought for The Army’s right to proclaim the gospel in the streets. We remember, or read about the meetings where THOUSANDS came to hear William or Catherine Booth preach.

We read about the parades of witness with hundreds of bands marching in the streets. We remember the way the Spirit of God moved in such a mighty way in Army meetings that people were moved to wave or clap their hands, or shout AMEN! A time when The Army was not afraid to SHOW the joy of the salvation they so graciously received from God. But it seems we have moved on from there. The Spirit that once permeated The Army SEEMS to be no more. BUT! The spirit hasn’t gone from The Army! Its still here … we just have to find it!  But today, we are more refined, more respectable. There are things that were done in the early days we wouldn’t dream of doing today. Such a SHAME! The Spirit of The Army isn’t dead … no. We just put it in the closet where no one can see it!

Joyful faith. That’s what Salvationism is about! The joy of the Lord is MY STRENGTH, and expressing that joy in word [shouting AMEN!] and deed [clapping, raising, or waving hands, picking up the flag and waving it] is how we let others know we have that Spirit of Joy within us. But we’re refined. We’re respectable, and you can’t do that in uniform. HOGWASH! [The only thing you can’t, or shouldn’t do in uniform is eat powdered doughnuts, and
you can even do that if you’re careful!]

The Salvation Army is a unique worship experience. I’m not just talking about the band, if you have one, or the fact most of the ‘members’ of our church wear uniform. Those things, while different from other churches, are only ornaments to worship. No. Army worship is, or should be unique because of the way we express the joy of our
faith!

If you can sit down and sing ‘I believe we shall win’ without clapping your hands with a big smile on your face, then there’s a problem. If you can remain in your seat, and solemnly sing the seventh verse of ‘O Boundless Salvation’ without feeling the irresistible urge to pick up the flag and wave it, there’s a problem. Does the Captain say something in her sermon that stirs your spirit? Does it make you want to shout ‘HALLELUJAH!’ or give a resounding ‘AMEN?’ Do ya do it? Or, are you afraid of shouting ‘AMEN!’ for fear the elder members of the corps would have heart attacks if you did?

I am a traditionalist. When I see [mainly on videos on YouTube] a Salvation Army band marching down the street, it stirs my soul; sometimes even to tears. I remember the days when we went out into the community doing open-air services [we didn’t march from the corps, we took the van]. I remember Easter Sunday morning marches of witness in our corps neighborhood. We took the message of Jesus Christ out into the streets where the people were.  Nowadays, the people are on the internet, they join Facebook and read blogs. Times change; methods change, and sometimes traditions change. But, our faith never changes, and neither does the joyful expression of it! I generally tend to refer to the expression of our joyful faith within The Salvation Army as ‘Army Spirit.’

Army Spirit encompasses more than just expressing our joyful faith, it also encompasses a desire to seek out those whom the world has forgotten about, the ones lost, without hope, without a prayer for the future; the ones who believe that even God Himself has forgotten about. But, God hasn’t forgotten them, and neither should we.

In today’s Army, we spend a lot of time trying to be like other churches. In some ways this is a good thing.  Other churches are successful in ministry, and we want to be too. So, we decide we need to get rid of things like the uniform, the band, and possibly even the flag. But those things, traditional as they may be, are a part of us, and identify us. We aren’t God’s Secret Service, we don’t blend in: We stand out. We stand out for Christ. Other churches haven’t given up their traditions, they have included more contemporary aspects of modern worship into their traditional worship, and we need to do that too. But, in the process, we cannot continue to quench that spirit of joyful faith that so permeated The Army in its early days. We need to release it once again so others can feel the fire of The Holy Spirit as we worship in our
corps.
The ‘Glory Days’ of the past serve as an inspiration to us in the present. We see in our past how God has worked in Salvation Army worship, and how soldiers expressed their joyful faith. We see in the past those who were not just ‘happy to be in church today,’ but people who desired to be there to feel the warmth of God’s Spirit as they shared the worship experience with those around them. They inspired each other to go out and take the message of God’s love to those in their communities, and they were encouraged to do acts of daring that today, we might consider extreme in order to reach out to the lost and suffering of the world they lived in. We sometimes refer to this as ‘the pioneering spirit,’ and rightly so, as this was the spirit that led the pioneers of our Army into battle against Satan. We also refer to these people as being ‘on fire for God.’ And again, rightly so, for they really were immersed in the fire of The Holy Spirit.
But today we have relegated these people, and this spirit of Salvationism to the past. We are firmly established in flourishing corps these days, so the spirit of the pioneers is not needed, right? WRONG! Some believe that we have grown out of touch with those around us, and our former style of worship is no longer relevant. Are they right? If it’s ‘traditional worship’ for the sake of tradition, then they are. If it is blended with more modern styles, then they’re not. [I believe that the band is a part of worship. If worship becomes about the band, there’s a problem.]

But the spirit of Salvationism, that joyful faith that we saw in the early days, the ‘Glory Days’ of The Salvation Army CANNOT remain in the past, or in the closet. We can’t keep it in a back room somewhere and hope that our corps moves forward without it. No. Just as this spirit of Salvationism was a driving force for the pioneers of The Army, so it is a driving force for The Army today. This joyful faith, grounded in Jesus Christ can be the catalyst for today’s Army to move forward. Will this move forward look like it did 100 years ago? Certainly not! But this joyful faith will keep us grounded in Jesus Christ as we blend new forms of worship into our traditions, and as we start new ministries that will take the love of God to those who are without hope. Who knows where the spirit of God will lead us!

When we think of ‘Glory days,’ we NEED to STOP thinking of them in the past, and start ANTICIPATING them in our FUTURE! While we remember the ‘Glory Days’ of the past with fondness, we need to start looking forward
to the many MORE ‘Glory Days’ still to come.

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