Dear Salvation Army, Is It Just ‘Busy’ Work?

It is a question I have often asked myself.
Something I’ve pondered.
Waged war with.
Chewed on until my jaws ache.

Have I (personally speaking) focused too much on the ‘busy’ work instead of the priorities of salvation? Am I spending so much time doing the mundane, the time consuming, soul-sucking tasks that offer no vital substance to life?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not viewing certain tasks as beneath me. I am, instead, uncovering something that I feel has been convicting to me…and perhaps it has been revealed to you as well by the Holy Spirit.

We, as an Army, have grown far beyond a movement birthed out of the ashes and smoke the industrial era. This movement has grown arms and legs in order to meet human needs in Jesus’ name. But with that growth, it becomes inevitable that we develop not so good traits as well. Over working ourselves. Demanding more and more income to support bloating projects. Straining for every ounce of local and federal funding sources. Funds are, of course vital to our cause, but there is a danger here: We might become tempted, in our busyness to trust less in the provision of God and trust more in our own efforts, our own donors, our own coffers.

Have we allowed busy work to shape our faith?
Have we entered into simply trusting in the next financial campaign instead of diligently seeking out what God would have us do? I pray this is never the case!

I am certainly not negating hard work, I am simply pondering whether in the midst of our hard work we have stopped looking to the Author of all things in exchange for the things He has created? Instead of commanding time, time is commanding us. In a very real sense have we lost our first love and replaced it with busy work?

I understand that we mustn’t grow tired of doing Good (Galatians 6:9)
But there should be moments of reflect that we do in order to be brought back to our first love and first priority – Loving God. THEN we are able to reach out and offer our soup, soap and salvation.

So how do we avoid making what we do just ‘Busy Work’?

3 Ways to Avoid The Trap of Busy Work:

1) Practicing the Presence of God Daily (Even moment by moment)
Brother Lawrence was right – we need to get into the practice of communing with the presence of God moment by moment. We need to fellowship with our Creator during the most trying of tasks to the most mundane of them. When we open up our lives and everything in them to God, we begin to share our experiences with Him. We are inviting Him to participate in them with us. Just because we have to do required mundane tasks doesn’t mean that it is busy work. ‘Busy work’ is done when we have no purpose, no mission or no aim. Busy work leads no one to Christ, consumes all our time and offers nothing in spiritual nourishment. When we enter into God’s presence throughout our day, we begin to eliminate the busy work. When we ask Him to commune with us, we begin to see what truly matters and life (and tasks) are given purpose once again. Why? We because we are not living for ourselves, our own hard work, our own ambitions, our own understanding…we are now dying to self, dying to corporate ladder climbing, dying to the search for approval and acceptance of others. Instead, we are living a new created life born out of holiness and the desire to be selfless.

2) Asking the question “Why”?
When we find ourselves caught in the busyness trap, we need to begin to asked questions. Like, “why am I doing what I am currently doing”. “Is this task or habit really what I should be doing?” “What is this contributing to the Kingdom building process?” Why do I catch myself falling into this ‘busyness’ trap again and again?

Habits are hard to break, and I believe busy work can be one of these bad habits that needs to be broken. We all are given time to do the necessary reports, chores, tasks…yet how often do we catch ourselves staring blankly at a computer screen? How often do we labor away at things that don’t really matter? I’m not saying we don’t do them, I am saying that perhaps we place too much emphasis on them. We give them too much importance and so our time gets eaten up in the non-Kingdom building habits.

There comes a point where we must look up.
Where we see where God desires us to go. Perhaps it is to talk to that person in the Social Services waiting room. Maybe it is to go and visit corps members, sit with a person that needs a friend, or spend a few solitary moments in the chapel praying. Are we looking up? Or do we go about our day with our heads down and buried in our computers, meanwhile making all of our tasks and duties “busy work”?
Why?

3) Connect with others.
I have mentioned this already in the second point…but it begs saying again: we MUST connect with other people (and not just on social media). Look people in the eyes. Really listen to their needs. Hear the hurt. See the longing for fellowship. Be a light to someone in need. Winning the world of Jesus begins with one or two people. If we aren’t reaching people for Christ what is the point of calling our selves an army of salvation?

When we realign ourselves with our first love and, in turn, pour that love out on others, we will have eliminated all ‘busy work’? How?
By turning each moment and each task into an opportunity to serve God. When we change our perspective and our priorities, we reorient our mission and purpose to the place it should have been all along.

Dear Salvation Army…is there ‘busy work’ taking place in your ministry right now?
Do you find yourself missing the mark and feeling unfulfilled in your calling?
Perhaps you must look up.
Perhaps a reprioritizing of life needs to take place.
Perhaps a rededication, a recommitment, a reigniting of the heart is in order.

Busy work happens to all of us…but we mustn’t remain there, we need to get up and move.

Something more for our Army to ponder today.

Dear Salvationist, we need more of THIS…

Holiness is certainly vital in our army.
Caring for the less fortunate, the orphan, the widow; equally important.
Having a deep desire to serve the Lord is also a requirement to this Salvation that is ours, yet there is something more…something else that is needed.

William Booth declared it as a young man years before he and Catherine began the Christian Mission. There is an action that all of us should seriously consider before attempting to win the world for Jesus.
Yes, we must certainly get on with it, and never waver, but THIS is a vital component to actually succeeding in the Lord’s name.

What is ‘THIS’, you ask?

Consecration.

Not Just Words:
We can say many things in our lives and in our ministries and at times these utterings only remain just that – words. For instance, (perhaps this might sound a bit harsh, please know I do not mean it to be) we as an Army can say that we are practicing sacramental living and nothing could be further from the truth…or perhaps we do not even know what it means to live a sacramental life.

Hence, the notion of consecration in our lives needs to take place.
Have we offered the Lord “all there is of me”, or are these simply utterances full of sound and fury signifying nothing but mere words?

Are we making our hearts, minds and souls spaces of the sacred and divine, or is the act of consecration foreign to our faith and practice?
What Consecration isn’t:
Consecration isn’t a magic ‘holiness’ pill that will suddenly end our uncertainties, dry up our faithlessness, and cause thousands to attend our church services. Consecration is not simply a ceremony or ritual to perform either, such as many of the old pharisaic practices of old. Consecration is not a ‘one and done’ type of event either.

What Consecration is:
Consecration is a moment of conviction that is driven by our ability to listen to the Holy Spirit. Consecration is an act and not a ritual. Consecration is God breathing into our very hearts and souls and we, the faithful servant, being moved into awe and action. Consecration is a catalyst for deeper spiritual change that brings us closer to reflecting the very image of Christ. Consecration removes the ‘doing’ of the Christian life, and replaces it with ‘being’ a Christ-follower. From this transformative act, the outpouring response is a world impacted by Christ in us.

We will still face difficult days.
We will still find opposition.
We will experience pain, heartache and tears…
BUT, when we remain in a state of ‘Being’ rather than ‘Doing’ – our identity dies and with it the new life and identity of Christ can be seen in us.

How does this happen?
Consecration will occur when:
We get serious of being Holy men and women.
We put down childish things that distract us and instead focus on Kingdom building.
We stop clamoring for the praise of others and start running after the presence of God every moment.
We hunger for more of His words as we read and consume the Bible, the writings of other Christ-followers who can take our faith deeper.

The act of consecration is to devote our lives fully to the Lord. As we do so we find true peace, hope and love. Consecrating our lives will me that we do so over and over again, often times fighting our old, sinful selves as we surrender more and more of our hearts and lives. Thus we at times will come to places of reconsecration, where we rededicate, renew, and revive our faith with a fresh indwelling of God’s presence. This certainly doesn’t mean that God has drifted from us so much so that we have to find Him, No! Actually the opposite occurs – we drift from God and it is His still small voice which calls to us and implores us to find renewal through reconsecration of our hearts, souls and minds.

Undoubtedly, Holiness and Consecration walk side by side.
We cannot have one without the other within this mainframe of our marred world. That which was meant to be Holy needs to first be consecrated to God. When we consecrate our lives to God, or reconsecrate it we are aligning our souls into the image of Christ once more. We, in essence are saying, “Here I am Lord, send me!”

Questions to Ponder:
Do you, dear Salvationist need to return to the cleansing waters of consecration? Have you drifted away from the firm foundation? The Holy Spirit is calling to all of us to find Him again. We are being called to rededicate our lives to Him if we have wandered away. He is calling us to a deeper faith, a more substantial existence…but we must be willing to give up those things which hinder us and hold us back.

“Take My Life and let it be”

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee

Take my love my Lord I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be
Ever only all for Thee

-Frances Ridley Havergal | Henri Abraham Cesar Malan

Something more for our Army to Ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, The Fish-Bowl Effect…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Salvation Army Officer’s Kids: 5 Survival Tips For Officer Kids Who Are Moving…

Hey fellow ponderers, please allow me this moment to be a little selfish…actually I want to specifically think of my children, and other officer kids out there on the cusp of moving (perhaps once again).   I know that this blog post will not speak to everyone, and not everyone will relate, but please recognize that I have a heart for the kids that these moves effect…because I was once one of them.  I know the hurt of moving, and hopefully, in some small way, I desire to help other Officer kids out there going through another move…

Dear Officer’s Kids: 
I remember vividly the day my parents broke the news to my sister and me that we were being fare-welled.   It struck my heart, my friends, my school, my corps family…everything was about to be uprooted, dislodged and, in my adolescent mind, ruined.  Life as I had known it sucked!  That’s what I thought.  That’s how I felt…and, in some small way, I was angry about it.

My family had spent eight years of our life overseas as missionaries to three separate locations in Southern Africa.  Then when we moved back to America, I had this thought that perhaps we would stay in our “American” appointment for a whole lot longer…but that was not to be, and at that time, I was very sad about the prospects of moving once again.

So we packed up our things, and began the long goodbye that is the farewell process in The Salvation Army.

Let’s face it, moving is never easy.  Your parents can get stressed out, frazzled and downright difficult to live with during this time; But how we view these kinds of transitions can make all the difference in how we face the next place we live.

Here are 5 Survival Tips For Officers Kids Who Are Moving:
(Perhaps, if you can practice these tips, it will be less survival and more thriving in a new opportunity!)

  1. Talk To Your Parents/Parents Talk To Your Child! 
    Mother and Daughter TalkingAsk as many questions as you can about where your parents are being sent.  Start to be inquisitive, and ask about your new school, corps, summer camp?  When we actually talk about the new appointment, or place you’re moving to, it becomes less of an unknown, scary thing, and more of an absolute, tangible ‘new home’.   Keep in mind that talking won’t always be easy.  There will be times when your parents will be stressed or upset too about the move, but keep in mind that families need to stick together and talk about the transition.  Parents: this is SO vital!  As soon as you can, tell your children.  Get them ready for the move.  Also please remember that how you view this move will positively or negatively impact how your child will view this move.  Discuss the pros and cons of moving…don’t neglect that both adults and children will feel a sense of loss, especially if the the current appointment is a place that you’ve been in for a long time!  Talk about what you’re going to miss and also talk about what you’re not going to miss – be honest and sensitive to what your child/children are saying.
  2. View Moving As An Adventure & Use What’s Familiar!
    Young Man Traveler with backpack relaxing outdoorMy parents helped my sister and me in this important topic by showing us the adventure that awaited us.  Now I know that there are some who are reading this and may be thinking to yourself, ‘It’s not always so joyful when we move’, and you’re right; but the more we can begin to view moving as an adventure, the more we can begin (and help our children begin) to adjust to a semi-transitory lifestyle.I recall knowing people who have lived in one place for their entire life, and I can’t even begin to understand that, but I don’t envy it either.  As I look back at the ‘Army’ life that I have lived, both growing up and now as an adult, I see all of the life lessons that I’ve had the opportunity to learn.  I also have experienced a broader world view than if my family had just stayed in one location for my whole life.  This adventure has taken me to live in different cultural places, I have learned different local customs of many regions, and because of it I feel like my life is more rounded.O the places you will go…and the places you will see as an Officer’s Kid!

    To Parents and Kids:  Start talking about the adventure…then live the adventure!  It can be easy to always look back and miss where you once lived, but if you look back the whole time, you will miss the adventure that you’re about to step through in the next appointment.  Find the fun in life.  View the new place that you’re about to live with a sense of fun and adventure.  Coupled with the new adventure, set up your rooms and homes with the familiar so that where ever you go, Home looks and feels the same – this is the ‘safe ground’, the sanctuary, the ‘fortress of solitude’ and the family first environment!  Bring your familiar blankets, pillows, posters, decorations…etc.

  3. Research, Explore & Google Places To See In Your New Home Townexplore
    We all have smart phones, computers and tablets, so use them to not only check out your new home, but all of the fun places around your new home.  Check out apps like Google, TripAdvisor, Zomato Yelp…etc to find new and exciting places to eat, explore and visit when you arrive at your new appointment.  Make plans to check out those places – and then do it!It can be fun to use your google maps to literally view the street your house is on and then go for an interactive ‘drive’ down the street through that app.  As you do this, you will start to envision yourself there.  It will never take the place of where you are living right now, or the places you’ve been, but it will certainly add to your life’s adventure!  Think of it as the next chapter, but you will never, ever replace the last chapter…it just becomes a wonderful part of your life’s book!
  4. Find Activities To Get Involved In Right Away In Your New School!
    activitiesWhen you move to your new home, (and here’s the BIG, frightening step of faith you should take:)  find activities that you are interested at your new school and/or community that you can become involved in.  Don’t wait for a year to jump into it, do it right away…trust me on this!I know some of you might be introverts at heart and you’ll want to stick close to home and ‘play it safe’, but try to push yourself to get out get involved!

    When I was a kid, I loved sports, and so when we moved I joined the soccer team and the track team.  By the time school actually started, I already knew people at my new school because they were friends from soccer.  I made it a point to get involved.  It wasn’t easy…and there were days that my stomach just churned with anxiety about being the ‘new guy’, but I pushed myself, and my parents gently pushed me too.

    That’s the key too parents:  your kids are stronger that we sometimes think they are.  They will thrive if we get them out there and involved in activities.  I’m not saying don’t allow them their down time at home, but don’t let them settle into unhealthy – isolating cocoons either!   Help them find activities that they are interested in within your new appointment and plug them into those activities.  When we can help our children find these healthy sources, they will develop friendships and become invested in this new adventure!

  5. Stay Positivepositive
    I’m not going to lie to you.  There will be days when you will sorely miss the place that you just came from.  There will be days that you will be tempted to withdraw from your new place and quit…don’t.  Families need to stick together during this ‘mourning’ phase of moving.  Emphasize the positives…look for the bright side and the opportunities.They say that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to things – so attitude is VERY important in these transitions!If your new school stinks, then perhaps you can find one friend to enjoy the stink with at that school.

    If your corps is not the best place to be, then perhaps you can find a small corner of it to make it your own despite the circumstances.

    Officers Kids and Parents:  How we act towards one another matters.  Be an encourager to each other.  Don’t go negative and only focus on what you hate about this new place.  Sure, talk about those things, but don’t stay there – find the silver lining and when you do, you will find hope and joy despite the ups and downs of these transitory circumstances.

Kids:  You got this!
You are resilient, smart, amazing people!  Help your parents, and remember we aren’t alone in this!  Officers kids are band of brothers and sisters and we can do anything we set our minds to!  Let’s stick together!

Parents:  Keep speaking truth, love and joy into your kids.  Be patient with them…and at times go easy on them!  Encourage them to be active, and show them what it means to live this Officer life…live the adventure with them!

Something more for This Army world to ponder!
May God richly bless on your move!

Dear Salvation Army: Communion, It’s Not What You Think It Is…

Dear fellow Ponderers…
I have been dragging my feet in writing this for some time.
Not because I didn’t want to write this edition to Pastorsponderings, but rather because I want to be careful in how I broach this conversation.  I do not wish to offend and upset you – the reader.   Some will no doubt become offended anyway, and I have come to terms with the fact that I will not always make everyone happy – that’s a fool’s errand anyway.

Perhaps in light of this Holy Week that we are all entering into we might also reflect on the Passover feast that Jesus participated in with His disciples…what we now call “The Last Supper”.

Thus, I write this with the utmost sensitivity and respect.

I have been contemplating the topic of Communion once again
(See previous conversations on this:
https://pastorsponderings.org/2014/07/23/dear-salvation-army-communion-survey-results/

Is Communion Considered Taboo in our Army? 
Within The Salvation Army, even the conversation of the Lord’s Table/Supper/Communion has become a taboo topic.  It is almost as if we are forbidden to talk about it, let alone partake in this ceremony.  Some have postulated that despite not participating in this ceremony, we have created our own sacred ceremonies in place of it, thus making the argument that we are non-sacramental in practice null and void.

I fear that failure to discuss such topics within our Army can lead to a polarization of our theological perspective, and variants of our doctrine might splinter and break off (as in some locations, it already has).

Some within our Army would treat the topic of communion with deep disdain to the point that the practice of it is almost treated as an organizational sin.  It is my estimation that too much focus on such a topic in this light is a waste of time and not conducive to unity within our Army.  There should be more open dialogue on this topic as I believe there should be on the topic of baptism.   -Someone will inevitably lambaste me for that, but that would just prove my point that we treat such innocent conversations on the topic as complete taboo and even sinful to even mention, which is ludicrous.
Davinci

Is Communion Misunderstood In The Universal Church? 
In Luke 22 it is recorded the celebration of Passover that Jesus and His disciples were partaking of.  This has now been dubbed “the Last Supper”, where Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to fulfill the final act of Salvation in His false trial, torture, and death by crucifixion.  Thus, Jesus reclines with His disciples and takes in these final private moments with those He is closest with:

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:14-19)

Could it be that over the centuries the emphasis (or fixation) upon the bread and wine have been misplaced?  Didn’t Jesus preach in parable and often teach as Rabbis of His day taught?  With questions and metaphor?  When Jesus spoke of doing “this” in remembrance of me, is it not possible that it wasn’t just the bread and wine He was talking about, but rather the entire dinner together, the fellowship and unity of disciples?  Is it possible that instead of coming together just to contemplate the bread and the wine, the whole ceremony of remembrance is just as vital?   Coupled with the remembrance, the unifying love of Christ that binds it all together is the common denominator.  So much so, that when the disciples gathered in another upper room together in perfect unity, they encountered the second blessing an the day of Pentecost?  (Acts 2:1-31)
fellowship 2
Perhaps, it is in the very practice of gathering in unity and prayer that we find the proper practice of Communion to be viable and appropriate – even commanded by Christ Himself.  After all, didn’t Jesus also pray for unity of the believers when we said, “ that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
fellowship3.jpg
Dear Salvation Army,
Let me ask you a question:  When are our Soldiers unified with the love of Christ?
When is it that we remember Jesus as our Savior and source of resurrection power?
Would you suggest that it is when we gather in times of confession, of worship, of fellowship?  When does the mission of Christ within our Army become the most galvanized and evident in the body of believers?
fellowship
Is there a time for ceremony and formal recognition?  Of course!
What do those intentionally consecrated moments look like?
Could it be that Communion has been vilified in our Army?  (Perhaps that is too strong a word)…
Is it possible that what Communion truly is – is the coming together of His disciples in fellowship and unity instead of mere ceremony?  Can we do this over a meal together?
fellowship 4
Perhaps instead on the over emphasis of the elements we have lost sight of the One who broke the bread and poured the wine?

What do YOU think? 
Post your comments below and let’s continue this pondering together.

*Disclaimer:  The views expressed here are of the author’s views and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Salvation Army.  Reader desecration is advised. *

 

Dear Salvation Army, Mending Fences…

Dear Salvation Army, reconciliation is a beautiful thing.
We seek it for our soldiers, we preach it from our pulpits, but do we truly live it?
I have heard it said that we as people are quick to expect forgiveness when we have been wronged, but what about when we have performed the misstep, what then?  How quickly do we respond to the hurt with the seeking of forgiveness and reconciliation?  It can be likened to the parable that Jesus told about the unforgiving servant who had just received forgiveness for a huge debt that he owed.  You would think that he would go home with great relief and treat others the same way he had just been graciously treated, but instead he returned the favor by harshly treating someone who was in his debt.  (Matthew 18:21-35)

My fellow Salvationists, we can be so good at distributing grace to the stranger, but to those within our ranks, at times that grace is missing.  One might say that because we operate within an authoritarian leadership model, one has come to expect harsh treatment amongst the ranks…let me ask you is this how Christ led his disciples?  Of course not!  Let me clear the air, there is no excuse for leaders who lord their power over those they have been given authority over.  Eventually they will receive the same kind of treatment that they have doled out.  Please do not misunderstand what I am saying and take it to mean that I am directing this conversation solely on Divisional and territorial leaders, as a matter of fact, dear Corps Officers, you ought to be very mindful of the power you have been given in your current appointments too!  How you treat your soldiers ought to be the way that you desire to be treated as well!

Let us prick this very vein of conversation today in order to arrive at a very important destination – Reconciliation!
I have heard some very sad tales of officers and soldiers leaving our ranks because they felt that they were no longer welcome and/or specific people, who had an ounce of power made then feel powerless and useless.  Perhaps I should interject here and compare our attrition rates with those awful circumstances mentioned above and wonder aloud if we are not self-destructing because a minority of people were given power and they horribly misused it?

Proverbs 13:10 says, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  Perhaps some of us need exactly that today.  I am most certainly not the one who ought to give it, for I am just as imperfect as the next soldier…but I do feel led to offer just three helps upon the road to reconciliation today that I feel our Army should consider.

Instead of paving over the pain and pretending those hurts are not there…
Instead of turning our backs on those who have left our ranks for any number of reasons…
Instead of ostracizing, criticizing, and gossiping…

Here are three very simple suggestions for ALL of the Soldiers in our Army both high in rank to the adherent considering soldiership.

1 Admit to the wrongs
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” -Proverbs 11:2
Are we so haughty in our hearts that we are above admission of guilt and wrong-doing?
Do we fear that we will lose credibility and our place of power amongst the ranks if we admit our missteps?
Could it be that in order for us to truly move forward as an army and in our mission, we have to humble ourselves so that He might lift us up?  (James 4:10)  This “humbling” includes owning our failures both corporately and individually.  If we wish to seek failure and loss of mission, then keep sweeping the sin and guilt under the rug as we think no one will ever notice.  But if we wish to experience fulfillment of mission and victory over sin, then we have to admit our sins and failures before God.  Yes, admit the wrongs, but don’t remain or live there, for to do so will lead to certain disillusionment and disgrace.  We merely stop there to own our failures…but remember He will lift us up when we discard pride and put on humility.

2 Atone for the Wrongs 
I firmly believe that one of the cruxes of our army today is the willingness to forgive the shortcomings of prospective believers and new believers than it is to forgive the shortcomings of “the saints”.  We treat soldiers who have fallen more harshly than we would ever treat a stranger…why?  Because they should have known better?  Are we not still susceptible to the lures of temptation and sin even if we don on our uniforms?  Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”  Did you catch that last part?  It says “GENTLY”.  All too often we are more harsh with fellow soldiers and officers, so much so that we have driven some away from our ranks, and they will never set foot in a corps ever again because of the pain we have caused them.  How do we atone for such a thing?  How does the Army move past these wrongs?  The true authoritarian, devoid of faith, would simply relocate that officer (if it was an officer involved)…they move them to a less desirable appointment or far away from the blight that was caused…but is that really what a Holiness movement ought to do, assuming we still carry that mantel and title within our hearts as a mission?

I am not naming any specific situation, I am simply pointing out what a true authoritarian model of leadership would do.  Within this strict sense of this model, true authoritarian leaders are to never be questioned or opposed because to do so would unravel the very fabric of the organization’s identity.  This model can often be on display from the corps setting all the way to IHQ.  This is not to say that all leaders portray this model, but perhaps because of it, there have been times that wrongs were done and then swept mercilessly under rugs in the attempt to forget and not to forgive.  If we as Christ-followers wish to travel the path of reconciliation, we have to own up to our wrong doings and stop sweeping.  The truest form of bravery, sincerity and grace is found in making peace when you were the one who once sought war; To attempt to mend the broken that you once broke.  The bigger man or woman, the truest leader amongst us is one who admits and makes the attempt to atone for wrongs done to others especially those amongst (or formerly amongst) our own ranks.

3 Seek Reconciliation:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  -Matthew 5:23-24

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9

Reconciliation doesn’t just happen once, it happens as often as there are wrongs to be righted.  I recall a time when I harbored anger towards a person in my corps and on Sunday morning I had to preach while that person was in the congregation.  I remember how my words felt like heavy weights that I could not lift, let alone speak.  How can I be sincere with my fellow soldiers if I had not sought to mend that which was truly broken in my heart and in that particular relationship at the time?  Was I at fault?  Absolutely, and it took every ounce of my courage to swallow my own pride and need to be right and make every effort to fix that relationship, only then would we be able to move on.  Once that was accomplished, it was like a large exhale had been released within our corps.

Dear fellow Soldiers, perhaps the reason your corps or your spiritual journey has been halted is because there is reconciliation that needs to take place.  Swallow your pride and seek it out, stop holding your breath of guilt and shame…exhale it in relief as you seek to mend the broken.  The hardest place to do this is with your fellow soldiers and officers with whom you hold animosity, pain and perhaps shame.  Holiness is dead if we are not able to offer grace towards one another.  Holiness is dead if we cannot admit, atone and reconcile both as individual travelers and as fellow sojourners.

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

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Things About The High Council…

Greetings fellow Salvationists and friends!
I wanted to delve into the topic of the High Council in this post, and perhaps share in your thoughts, opinions and hopes for what is to come.  It has been announced that in May of this year (2018), the High Council will convene to prayerfully elect new General of The Salvation Army.   I have seen some interesting polls being passed around on social media as to who the new General might be, and perhaps who some hope it will be.  What we know is that Territorial leaders from around the world have been summoned and will travel to London, they will meet at the Renaissance Hotel near Heathrow Airport.  This is the second time that this location has been used for the convening of the High Council.  general
3 Observations About The Salvation Army High Council & Election of our new General…

1.  Fastest Growing Regions…ten forty
It would be quite remarkable if the new General were to come from a place in the world where the Army is growing in leaps and bounds.  Countries in Africa and South America, and Asia spring to mind.  Isn’t it interesting that the Army is growing remarkably well in many places where financial resources are thin or nonexistent?  There is something to be learned in this, and perhaps we shall explore that topic another day.  But, the High Council were to elect our new General from one of these regions, it would certainly be remarkable and offer a true representation of a growing army.

2.  The Majority – A Safe Election…
westA vast majority of our Generals have been Westerners.  I am not saying this as an incendiary comment, it is simply fact.   The top percentage of our international leaders are those who hale from the Americas, Australia and the United Kingdom, save for a few.  This is not to say that there are not leaders who come from other regions in the world, but by and large most are Westerners.  This is where a majority of the Army’s funds come from, where world services support is raised.   I do not presume to know much of the politics in our army, but I do know that prosperous territories generally have a larger, albeit unspoken, sway to how the army operates.  The power of the resource can often dictate the direction in which those resources are utilized in the world for the purpose of the army.  Thus, if this was to be a “safe” election at High Council, the election choice could follow suit of so many other past Generals in terms of nationality and region of origin.

3.  The Holy Spirit…high council2
I have been told by multiple sources that these places of election have also been very holy places of worship first and foremost.  It is not that these spaces were already sacred, but rather the leaders who come to High Council do so in prayerful reverence and at the moving of the Holy Spirit.  If we are truly a holiness movement, then it would make sense that our seats of highest authority be seats of holiness and humility.  Is it always so?  Of course not, but may we as an army place this event into our prayers and ask the Holy Spirit to lead those who will come to High Council.  Secondly, may we fervently pray for our next General!  When we allow the Holy Spirit to move within our army, all other agendas and ambitions will fade and His direction will provide us the appropriate leader for such a time as this.

It’s Your Turn…
What are your thoughts on High Council?
What do you expect to see coming from the election of our new General?
Does this have any impact on your life, or the life of your home corps?
Is there a need for a more aggressive mission and vision in our army today?  If so, what should this more aggressive mission and vision be?   Tell us what YOU think in your comments below either via this blog page or on this social media thread.

Additional News Links on this topic:
IHQ Announcement

https://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/highcouncil

Wikipedia on High Council
https://salvationist.ca/articles/plans-under-way-for-2018-high-council/

Something more for our Army to ponder today.
-God Bless you!

Dear Salvation Army: Emergency Disaster Services – Touching Lives, Not Networks.

I have been watching and praying for my fellow Officers and Soldiers who have served and are currently serving on Emergency Disaster Services teams in Texas and Florida.
Some of the devastation is heartbreaking as many families have lost everything.  Many organizations have been on site since day 1…including The Salvation Army.   EDS2

Confession:
I have to confess something, I would often get upset when other relief organizations would get all of the press time on television networks.  I would grow weary of the lack of reporting of all of the good things my fellow Soldiers, Officers and volunteers of The Salvation Army were doing on the ground. It seemed that there were many media hogs seizing every minute of television and radio time but as soon as the cameras were gone…so were they.  On behalf of the movement I faithfully serve, I felt gypped.

I expressed this salty opinion to one of my corps members, I was in a cantankerous mood. This corps member is a far wiser person than I will ever be.  He had perspective and with calm, sage advice said, “You know, it has never been about how much press time we get…we aren’t there for the applause or public acclaim, we’re there to serve the hurting as best as we can as we rely on the Lord to guide us.”  With one fell swoop, he cut me off at the knees – which was a good thing.  He brought a great sense of perspective to my heart.  There I was, getting so upset in the halls of public opinion while completely forgetting the primary purpose for our ‘Army’ existing in those places of disaster – to faithfully serve others with the love and grace of the Lord – regardless if it was seem through the lenses of some camera.   prayer

I was reminded of a passage of scripture, and I don’t use this to get preachy or to sound judgmental, but rather to put some sobering perspective back into my heart and perhaps others who might be struggling with this as well:  “….Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.”  (Matthew 6:1,2)

-If we serve because we want to be seen, we have gotten it all wrong…
-If we serve because it brings fame to any organization, we have gotten it all wrong…
-If we serve because it makes us look good, we have gotten it all wrong…
…and we will have already received our reward, if so then God help us!

Instead, may our service, especially those unseen by the world around us, bring glory to God!  It should never be about our air time or the many external fund raisers on our behalf – The Lord will provide – be faithful in this!  Our consistency in serving Him is paramount to all of these things.  We are called to offer compassion, care, love, hope…with all of those things, who has time to worry about anything else?

Pray!!
Please pray for the many hands and feet of God currently serving in Texas and in Florida!  Continue to pray for this hurricane season…and the upcoming storms.  Don’t forget the Emergency Disaster Service personnel in the Western Territory either!  Prayer is not a last resort, but a means to continue to bring the needs of many before the Lord continuously!

Something more to Ponder…To God be the glory!!

Dear Salvation Army, If Baptism isn’t Necessary, are Uniforms?

“So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…” -Acts 10:48a

Recently I was asked a question by one of our volunteers who had been busily answering phones but found a lull in the rush of the day.  The question?  “Why doesn’t The Salvation Army baptize?”  It’s a good question, one that has been asked many times before.  I answered him, in a semi-rehearsed conversation.  I told him about our perspective on holiness and on holy living.  That these outward ceremonies only represent that which the Holy Spirit has already on on the inward parts of our heart and lives.  I went on to explain that baptism isn’t necessary to salvation, but rather a public witness to that life changing event.  He countered that it says one must be baptized even in the Great Commission:  “18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

I challenged  him with a notion of my own:  but Peter said, “ and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[a] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”  (1 Peter 3:21)

If water baptism is only a symbol of the salvation that now saves you, doesn’t that mean that it’s all about the Holy Spirit and not the water?  Doesn’t that mean that, as I have already mentioned it’s not the water that makes the difference, but rather the work of Him who now resides within us at the moment of initial sanctification when we said “yes” to Christ’s dominion and Lordship of our lives?  -When the baptism of the Holy Spirit first encompassed our lives?

We continued to converse about this topic of baptism and its necessity, until this very astute volunteer asked a question I had not thought about.  He said; “In order to be a member of some churches, you have to become baptized (at least in his church it was emphasized I later found out).  So how does one become a member in The Salvation Army?”  I told him about our Soldiership classes and then how new soldiers are given uniforms as another sign of their membership into The Salvation Army, which is also an evidence of a life changing event as a soldier pledges to: “HAVING accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and desiring to fulfil my membership of His Church on earth as a soldier of The Salvation Army, I now by God’s grace enter into a sacred covenant…THEREFORE

I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit’s work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible.

I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life.

I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought. word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral.

I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others: my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow Salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community.

I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life.

I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God.

I will abstain from alcoholic drink. tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs. gambling, pornography, the occult, and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.

I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and the disadvantaged.

I will be actively involved, as l am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.

I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of Salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.

I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God’s help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army.”

I showed him the general idea of a Soldiership enrollment and pledge/covenant.  
He looked at me with a little bit of surprise.
Then his next words really made me think, “But this is similar to what I experienced in my baptism.”
He went online and showed me some of the wording that was used on his day of baptism.  The website blink and whisked us to his church’s website and there on the screen was the basic ceremony of baptism:  

Since you have responded by God’s grace
to the call of the gospel to believe and be baptized,
we ask you, before God and his people,
to profess your faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you turn to Jesus Christ?
Yes!
Do you intend to be Christ’s faithful disciple,
trusting his promises,
obeying his word,
honoring his church,
and showing his love,
as long as you live?
Yes!

(*Note:  Both of these public statements of faith are good and helpful for the body, I am not criticizing their usefulness)  

After showing me this he asked me the all important question, “If The Salvation Army believes that baptism is unnecessary, then isn’t the Uniform that you wear unnecessary too?

You know in some ways he is right.
The Uniform isn’t of course necessary for Salvation just as water baptism doesn’t save people…but could it become that to us in the Army?
Of course we know that the entirety of this transforming grace is done through the Holy Spirit alone.  Each are symbols.   Each are ways in which we commemorate and identify ourselves as members of that particular Ecclesia.   But, perhaps it begs the question of us today, even to quantify and formulate our own response of the necessity of uniform in The Salvation Army.  Do you have an answer or do you merely follow, perhaps even blindly without fully recognizing the symbolism and meaning?

Please do not get me wrong, I am not advocating that we chuck our uniforms away and lose that part of our identity, but what is the reason that we still wear the uniform?  Do we wear it for public recognition?  Do we wear it to look good?  Do we wear it because it’s what we’ve always done?  Do we wear it to fit in?  -Any of these answers is NOT good enough.  We must formulate a personal response and reason.  Yes, we are a part of this international movement.  Yes, we are identifying ourselves as members of The Salvation Army, but is that a sufficient of an answer?

Let me ask this question and perhaps some will think me a little crazy in asking, has the use if Uniforms and enrollment of soldiers simply taken the place of baptism and even communion as the commonality and qualifications of membership?  Have we just exchanged one ceremony for another?  Could this eventually lose it’s symbolism and meaning to future generations…or has this already happened and we aren’t prepared to admit it?

Two key observations before I close this open ended pondering today (and please comment and share your answers and questions with us):

1) William and Catherine Booth decided to exclude the use of baptism and communion because these had been abused and lost its meaning and had even become means for salvation and even power of the church.  Could this be happening to the Uniforms and the use of such a wardrobe?

2) The Uniform was originally adopted so that poor and rich alike could fit into “church” or the movement of the Army.  But as the price of uniforms become more and more expense even with allowances and percentages offered to members, is it necessary?  It used to solidify and unify the early Army…but was it meant to last forever?  Also has it now become what it should never have become – something that divides new comers and adherents from the “true” soldiers?  Instead, of unifying is it undoing what the Booths originally set out to do with the lower East End of London?

Things To Ponder (Tell us what you think?):
Have we not taught the proper use of uniform?
Have we lost the symbolism?
Has the Uniform become a divider instead of something that unifies?  Are we overthinking this?
Are we in need of changing the uniforms?
What of Baptism?  Is it really similar to the ceremony of soldiership & renewal ceremonies?  And have we just exchanged one ceremony for another?

Note: My purpose for such a pondering today is not to discourage you dear Salvation Army, but rather to better identify and have an answer for such questions as I have had this week…now it’s your turn.  What do you think?  

Something more for the army to ponder today.

*Disclaimer, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are solely the thoughts and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of The Salvation Army.  Reader discretion is advised.* 

 

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