Ponder Cast #8 “Getting Over It”

A new Ponder Cast is up entitled (here is the hyperlink)  “Getting Over It” check it out!
Do you still harbor anger and bitterness towards someone?
Have you ever been hurt by people and you have struggled to forgive let alone let go?
Jesus asks us to forgive our enemies.
Could it be that in our forgiving others we release the burdens and the baggage in our own lives that we have held onto for far too long?  I believe that forgiveness is the start of living again.  It is when we do not harbor the ugly bitterness and rage that God can begin to fill us once again with something beautiful.  Are you prepared to get over it?

Dear Salvationists this applies for all of us today!
We cannot be a functioning Army for the Lord while holding grudges and struggling with unforgiveness in our hearts.  We must seek reconciliation, we have to get over it so that we can move on!

Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Dear Bitterness (a poem)
I’ve journeyed with you too long my friend
You have eaten too much of my soul
With great energy I labored on
and you were always a burden on me.

I’ve journey with your icy stare
your knives as sharp as razor blades
I never knew how deep they cut
Nor how long I’ve harbored this rage

I’ve journeyed with your heavy weight
that forced me ever to my knees
I’ve feasted on your bitter roots
my sanguine meal both night and day.

But I’m finally ready.
I’m ready to let this go.
I’m ready to say goodbye
I don’t need you anymore
I’ve clutched too tightly onto this
it has killed my soul
It has poisoned my heart
It has held me back for far too long…
Dear bitterness…you don’t own me anymore
I am no longer your prisoner
I am no longer your whipping boy
And so I say farewell
I choose to forgive
I choose grace
I choose to be free.

Something more to ponder today!
Please subscribe to our ponder cast, and share it with your friends!
God Bless you today! 

Ponder Cast #7 “Everything Happens For A Reason”

Dear Salvationists and Friends,

Sometimes we say phrases that perhaps just roll of the tongue.
Sometimes there isn’t much meaning behind them.
It’s more of a cordial welcome phrase “hello how are you” and we never expect much back from the recipient other than “I am fine, thanks!”

Have we ever truly thought about the phrases that we say…I mean really?
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Is the phrase – “Everything happens for a reason” really true in all aspects of life?
I recently wrote about this phrase and three others that you can read here: Christian Phrases That We Should Stop Saying
It was also recently featured on Salvationist.ca

Give this Ponder Cast #7 Click here a listen, please subscribe and share it with your friends!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army…The Church of The Hyprocrites

Let me first clarify,
I am not calling us (The Salvation Army) “The Church of the Hyprocrites”…but sometimes if the shoe fits.

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What I am pondering today is whether or not we can fall into this category from time to time without even realizing it.  Perhaps it manifests itself in us when a new visitor attends our corps and we immediately judge them on the merits of what they wear or how they act or don’t act.  Perhaps we become the hypocrite in the way that we treat each other or how we talk about one another behind their backs.  Perhaps being a hypocrite isn’t as simple as “those people” after all.   Maybe, just maybe we find ourselves being a hypocrite more often then we at first realized.

Let me first talk to the hypocrite in us all (if we dare to EVER admit that we struggle with this…I should say I am first talking to the hypocrite in ME before I talk to you)…

DEAR HYPOCRITE:
You are destroying the fellowship of believers.
Your words and practices are not always in step with each other.
You say one thing and expect others to follow those commands, while at the same time you are not living up to those expectations either.   Stop living this lie!  Other DO see you!  You are visible to other believers and would be believers.  If you want to see this church plateau in its growth, in its fruit of the spirit, in its spiritual nourishment, just keep doing what you’re doing, because soon enough you will see its demise.  If you can’t practice what you preach then how can you expect others to do it?  If you don’t care about anyone other than how they appear and how they measure up, then you don’t really care at all.  Stop judging.  Stop playing the role of judge, jury and executioner.  This was never your role.  This was never yours to command in the first place.  The Church of Hypocrites needs to die a fast, sudden death!  It cannot continue to flourish.  It has existed for far too long within the fellowship of believers.  Call it the remnants of sin, call it unforgiveness, call it what you want…but it needs to die!  We cannot thrive, we cannot survive like this anymore!
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To The Victims of Hypocrisy 
Forgive me when I have judged you.
Forgive them when the church of the hypocrites have wronged you.
You have a reason to be angry.
You have every excuse to retaliate.
You have every excuse to walk away and quite your search of godly people.
But don’t.
In your forgiveness, please be the example of Christ that we have failed to be.
Please show us the error of our ways by how you do not return that spite!
Please rise above this.
Please try to see us as fallen too.

Dear Salvation Army,
We cannot ever tolerate the Church of the Hypocrites.
We cannot allow this to exist among our ranks.
There are no favorites in these ranks.
There are no exceptions.
We cannot pursue both Holiness and Hypocrisy.
We cannot thrive with this poison in our veins.
There is not place for it in our corps, or in our halls, or in our offices.

Micah 6:8 Says;
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

We can never love mercy and walk humbly with our God when we are better than others.
We can never exist humbly in fellowship with God if we wrong our brother and sister in Christ.
We can never be a holy Soldier for Him while wearing our uniforms and judge others by our human standards.

Dear Soldiers of the faith,
We were never called to be the Church of the Hypocrites, nor allow it to remain within our ranks.
It begins in my heart.
It begins in your heart.
From there we can change.
From there we can eradicate this blight on the soul.
From there we can change this Army from the inside out.
The real question is, are we willing to?

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

PastorsPonderings Wins Blogging Award!!!

Today, I was informed that Pastorsponderings.org has won an award from Canadian Church Press awards in the category of “Best Blogs”!!  I am extremely honored to have even been considered for this prestigious award.  What a privilege to be able to write about life, our spiritual journeys and Christian living and to be recognized for it.

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Here’s the news site about the award:
http://salvationist.ca/2015/05/army-magazines-and-website-win-15-awards/
http://canadianchurchpress.com/awards/

Here’s to another great year of blogging and journalism!
Thank you for tuning in, reading, subscribing and sharing this Pastorsponderings.org!
What an awesome honor it is to be recognized for doing what I love.

-Blessings on you today!

-Scott.

Being Joyful In Hope…A Way Of Living

hopeThe List Of “Maybes”
Maybe:
<You are going through a tough time right now.
            <You are just having a bad day.
            <You have been in this dry, barren desert from some time now. 
            <You are on the brink of giving up.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” -Romans 12:12
Here is some encouragement for you today, and let me unpack it for you.Romans

Hope:
Hope isn’t some wish that is granted by rubbing a genie bottle.
Hope is not about “Wishing” my day would get better.
Hope isn’t about dreaming a “better you” either.
Hope isn’t found by fully relying on one’s self.  Hope is provided. It is bestowed upon us.  Hope, like grace is a characteristic of God.  He gave us life, and now He is providing us a way to live it to its fullest.  Faith has a way of stretching us.  It propels us far beyond our comprehension of “what’s possible and available” to us.  Faith, not in ourselves, but in Christ plants the seeds of hope in our heart.  When we have this rootedness in Christ, we will begin to finally see beyond the temporalness of life.  We can begin to see a bigger picture.  We can start to scratch the surface of a hope that comes from God.

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Patient in Affliction: 
Joy isn’t about being happy.  Sure, happiness is great…but sometimes it’s a limited time run.
We do go through difficulties in life.
We will not always be happy.
It is a myth that Christians MUST be happy all the time.
How is that even possible?  It would look awfully strange at sad events like funerals to be laughing with happiness in the corner wouldn’t it?
Truths:
We will experience sadness as Christians.
We will endure afflictions too.
Happiness is not the same thing as joy.
Joy, like Hope is provided to us by the source of joy – God himself.
So that despite the situation, both good or bad, we might still retain joy within our souls.

simplicity-1-728The Heart of the Pondering Today:
I do not know what you are going through today, but I do know that despite the turbulence of life, despite the upheaval that happens from time to time – Hoping in the Almighty provides us joy and endurance through it all.  Can you trust in a God who is overall?  Can you hope in an everlasting joy instead of a temporary fix of happiness?  I’m not saying don’t be happy ever again, but we can tap into something so much more powerful and lasting than short bursts of a disappointing type of instant gratification happiness.

To begin, we have to be willing to let go of the things we cannot control.
It isn’t easy to let go of anything, let a lone a perceived type of control in life, yet, through prayer, through faith we will begin to see a hope that will restore our souls and place us completely submitted to God…in everything, every area of our lives.  This is probably the hardest thing for any of us to do, but when we do let go and when we submit to His purposes for our lives, the dynamic changes and we can experience this  joyfulness in hope.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, I pray for so many today who are experiencing doubt, despair and depression.  I pray for strength in my own life today.  Please provide us endurance as we place our all before you in complete submission.  Teach us what being joyful in hope looks like.  Reveal to us Your joy even in the midst of our dark valleys, Lord.  Be near us, and help us to live this life that you have called us to.  -Amen.

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

What’s Killing The Church And Is It A Bad Thing?

The Church is dying at least in the traditional sense.
Perhaps it is not visibly seen in the mega church realms yet, but something is taking place in churches all around the United States.  If one were to look solely at church attendance through the lens of entities such as the Barna group, one would see that the decline is quite remarkable and seems to continue trending this way for years to come.

Perhaps we have been asking the “why” question for quite some time now.
Perhaps that’s not the right question.
Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is this:  “Is this really a bad thing?”

We are currently living in a world where spiritualism is on the rise while an individual identification of a specific religion is at an all time low.  One might say that this is a terrible trend.  One could argue, and rightly so, that spiritualism leads to many roads and many uncertain practices.  Recently even Pope Benedict XVI chastised the leadership of the Catholic church for it’s polarizing mission.

Is the death of “Church” really a bad thing? 
Pristine buildings.
Ritual practices.
Worship songs devoid of meaning.
Sermons with the same rhetoric and religious jargon.
…you get my point don’t you?
It sounds quite cynical I know.
But sometimes certain truths should be peeled back.
Sometimes we must allow our eyes to look upon the ugly cancerous parts of the church.
When the heart no longer follows the path of the holy.
When certain practices become high places and replaces the Most High.
Could it be that the death of “Church” is due to its first love being replaced with hollow practice, shallow traditions devoid of the Divine?   I hope not, I really do.

But, if this is truly the case, is the death of such a shallow form really so bad after all?
Could it be that out of its ashes an authentic remnant, a reinvigorated, holy people shall rise again?  Isn’t that sort of biblical?  Every time the Hebrew people prostituted themselves out to foreign gods and false, shallow practices God led them into a time of spiritual death through captivity through foreign powers.

Is this a wake up call? 
Is this a call into a deeper holiness?
Is this a warning to discard all that would distract?
Are we what Christ intended His disciples to become?
Are we still growing…or is our growth stunted, atrophied and broken?

Not to sound like a cliche’ but we cannot afford to simply go through the motions of religious practice.
We weren’t saved for this purpose.
We are all called to higher, more holy purpose.
Do we know what that holy purpose is anymore?
Have we lost our way?

I sure hope not…I really do.
Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

BEWARE: Bitter Feasting and Hardened Hearts

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  “As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts ….” Hebrews 3:15 (NIV)

 

This passage is a reference from Psalm 95:7-8.  Do we still harden our hearts today?  
What does it even mean to “harden our hearts”?

 

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What I understand it to mean is when we allow bitterness to enter into our lives and hearts.  When we feel abandoned by God, even when He hasn’t left us, we might be inclined to become angry and bitter.  Thus the hardening of our hearts occurs when we turn from anger to a scary emotion of hopelessness and apathy.  Perhaps in this swing of emotion and temperament we simply give up.  We give up trying, we give up believing and we give up hope.  

Beware of the hardened heart!

 All of us have feasted on the bitter roots of sorrow, disappointment and anger.  Each one of us, if we were honest, have asked the question silently (maybe out loud) “why God?”   In that moment of bitter feasting we must recognize a couple of things lest we fall into total despair and experience the totality of a hardened heart.

2 Things:

1.  God has not abandoned you!  

 

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Your friends, colleagues, organization you work for, neighbors and family may not completely understand.  They may not be there for you.  In fact some might even let you down or watch you crash and burn (I know positive isn’t it?)…BUT God has not abandoned you! Envision Jesus on the cross.  He hung there horrifically dying for the sins of humanity and He cried out “Oh God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus quotes a Psalm of David here (Ps 22:1), yet the human emotion evoked here is very real.  Jesus’ humanity is evident, and even in the midst of this He still knows that God hasn’t truly abandoned Him…though it feels like it in His suffering.  We may not be hanging on a cross, but we most likely know a thing or two about pain and suffering as well.  The pain and suffering we might experience could be physical or emotional and in the midst of these “dark times” we might feel compelled to call out to God and ask Him why He has abandoned us.  

Don’t let that emotion or thought cause you to give up hope!  Do not allow despair and bitterness to creep in and destroy your faith. God does not abandon His own!  He will never leave you or forsake you!  (Hebrews 13:5-6)  The world around you might try and convince you that He has left you all alone, but don’t buy the lie of the worldly influence.  Don’t buy the lie for a moment.  Also don’t feel guilty about considering this very human response to pain – Jesus even uttered those words.  Pain is not something we wish to keep around us, yet in those moments of severe doubt, depression and pain remember God has NOT abandoned you!

2.  SO WHAT? 

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Do you live with fear?  Do you live with pain, discouragement, doubt, sorrow?  In the grand scheme of things, these are all fragments of a broken and fallen world in which we live.  I don’t mean to paint a picture here of a hopeless world because God created this world so that we could fellowship with Him…there is beauty here and remnants of His initial creation.  Yet sin has marred that.  Sin and the fallen nature in which we live has brought with it these broken, negative emotions.  If we could step back from our problems and our pain for a moment and see Us how God sees us, I believe we could possibly grasp just a glimpse of the love and potential He has for us all.  Secondly, God doesn’t want to leave us this way – hopeless and alone; fearful and bound by pain, bitterness and anger.  God wants to do a mighty work within us.  

We have to be willing to say to our fears and pain – “So what?”  When the pain becomes intense, or the depression penetrates us deeply we can look at these blights and say “So what, do you worst, I know in whom I believe!”  

The Apostle Paul (while in chains) puts this “So what” principle into perspective for us: 
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel” -Philippians 1:20-27 (NIV) 

The Apostle Paul confronts his potential roots of bitterness, anger and despair by saying “whether I live or die I will conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  

So what if I die.  So what if I experience heart wrenching disappointment in life.  So what if I have to go through this pain right now.  So what if I am not accepted by others.  So what if others don’t see the potential in me that I know is there…SO WHAT?

If I can keep my perspectives clear and understand that all that I do and all that I say should be for the glory of God despite outside influences, then I can avoid this hardening of my heart.  This world can’t shake me.  I won’t be defined by others who have no interest in helping me develop and further in my personal holiness.  I won’t harbor bitterness towards the Savior because I live in a fallen world and often times it’s screwed up – not me.  

I am reminded of the chorus “One thing remains, Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me!”  

2 Principles and a pondering conclusion: 

God has NOT abandoned you.  He is the same today as yesterday and He will never leave us alone!
So what if the world doesn’t recognize you.  So what if you face fears, pain and disappointment?  God never fails you!
If Paul could say “so what” to death for the cause of Christ, we too can say “so what” to our troubles.  

Some might say, “well that’s easier said then done”…of course it is.  This will never be easy.  This will be the hardest thing we ever have to do, yet if we can rise above these temporal issues we will find the strength to make it through! 

Don’t harden your heart!  Don’t allow the father of lies to convince you that no one cares.  Don’t become consumed with apathy and despair.  Don’t feast on those roots of bitterness any longer.  Beware of its trappings, cling to these two important principles and wait on God to provide His salve to your life.

 

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-Just a pondering for you today!  

 

On Pathways…past, present, future.

Perhaps time has been kind.  Often I think about this and wonder what or where I might be if roads, that I have been on had taken slight forks or curved and bent on out into the distance.  It’s not so much a shoulda, coulda, woulda; but more of a existential pondering of sorts.

My mind sometimes drifts to college days, when all my concerns consisted of getting homework assignments in on time and staying up way past my bed time to complete things long procrastinated on…as they say, those were the days…but not really.  Though friendships were bonded like gorilla glue to my fingers, I don’t recall glory days while on the campus of academia.  But I do wonder about this path, if I had trodden too softly in one placement of my feet where it may have taken me…or where I might be today should I had taken an earlier exit convening off into another destination.  As I’ve said before it’s not about regret, merely consideration…ponderings.

Which brings me to my next line of reasoning…here goes…brace yourself…ok: does God have a specific course for our lives?  My answer might surprise you…for me it would be no…that doesn’t mean faithfulness doesn’t play into it all or that I would have done anything differently.  But the God I know doesn’t work like that.  We aren’t controlled or forced to do anything, like some sort of pet on a leash…free will for us all means just that.  Our walkways, pathways, country roads and cobble stone avenues are chosen by us.  God may do some convicting, prodding, convincing and other means of conversation along the way, but these selections of ours…are just that.

Still, my path is wearing thin the treads on these running shoes, I am caked in the dust I’ve stirred up along the way…but I’m happy.  I may have a skinned knee or two, some scars to prove I’m by far not the most graceful sojourner on these travels…but I would be a fool if I have not learned a thing or two along the way.  I’ve learned that not all leaders are right, some as human as they come,  fall, make mistakes, and hurt our pride, souls and curve out pieces of our hearts…no one ever said it was going to be easy.  Still other leaders, their foot prints I follow along this path…they have loved and left impression upon who I thought I was and who I am striving to be…diamonds in the rough.  There are friends who befriend you for but a short time, perhaps with ill intentions, ambitions and selfish motivations then paths take different directions, some infect us for better or worse – all of it making us strong because of it.  While other friends, on journeys on their own come along side us, love us for who we are not who they’ve perceived us to be and better us by challenging us, sticking up for us and going to hell and back for us – these come but once or twice in a life time (I have found).   Isn’t it interesting what life brings to us from time to time?

I’m not sure where my path will lead me…but I’m content to be faithful, I’m content to keep on moving…But I won’t be content to settle, become static and/or fade away…no there are bigger fish to fry so to speak.  They say Iron sharpens Iron…I’m getting sharper everyday (I hope), and with these razor’s edges I hope I don’t cut myself, fall upon my blade tripped up by pride, arrogance or foolishness.  Yes I’m not sure where my path will lead me…But I will be faithful.  Steady as it comes.

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