Dear Salvation Army, Answering The Call

Here is the principle – adapt your measures to the necessity of the people to whom you minister. You are to take the Gospel to them in such modes and circumstances as will gain for it from them a hearing.” –Catherine Boothcatherine

How far do we go in answering the call for help?
Are we truly listening?
All around our communities, there are hurting people.
Regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances, our mission is to help, and in so doing, we can open the door to offering spiritual aide as well.  But how far will we go?  Do we still adapt our measures to the extreme of the need of people?

A Snoozing Army ?
snoozeAre we alert to the ever present need to adapt to our changing communities?
Are we awake?  Or are we happily slumbering in an Army of bygone eras and rusting instruments in a chapel only marginally attended?  This may sound harsh, but perhaps we have been caught snoozing.  In our attempts to play “Church” which we are not, or more than – we have forgotten this principle plainly outlined by our Co-founder Catherine Booth.  While we have been polishing our awards and photographs of yesteryear, we have lost sight of the present dangers ruling our streets and pulling the helpless into the very pit of hell, lined with addictions, abuse, pornography, apathy, hatred, human slavery, and all kinds of other horrors.  Is this you?  Is this me?  I pray it is not.  I pray if it is, we would wake up and recognize the reasons we may be dying are directly related to our missing vision and mission.  Our origin story.  Our principle for being an Army in the first place.  To go for souls and go for the worst.  To combat the forces of evil that still ravage our communities, and do so without fear of reprisals and attacks of the enemy.

I fear we have slipped because we have failed to adapt.  adapt
I fear we have stopped being revolutionary in our methods to reach the lost.
Perhaps we have grown too comfortable in our offices and in our perceived places of power and authority.  Perhaps we have grown lax and lost some of our vigilant passion.  If we are to continue winning souls for the kingdom, we won’t find them banging on our doors to be let into our Sunday services – No!  We must adopt other means to seek souls out.  William and Catherine Booth didn’t start the Christian mission in a pristine church ornately decorated with stained glass, NO!  They went to the Pub, they went where no other church would go.  Are we as bold as they were?  Can we, perhaps, pray for such a boldness in our Army today?  Oh Lord, grant us the courage to go where you send us, and the conviction to remain steadfast despite the intimidation of the evil one.  For I fear that currently the evil one is perfectly happy with our lack of zeal in the streets, as we usher ourselves away quietly in our corps halls to worship and nothing more.

No, a new revolution must be waged!  
soldierA new passion for souls must be prayed for, not just in our hearts but in every soldier’s heart.  This isn’t just an army that preserves a heritage of the yesteryear, this is an army that carves out its destiny in the present and future through faithfulness and reliance on the Holy Spirit!  We must recognize this need!  We must reorganize, realign, re-imagine and act upon this mission of ours!  We are not an army to sit on our backsides and do nothing!  No! We MUST be a forward moving army, who has accepted and adapted to this modern spiritual war we are in.  We cannot capitulate, grow soft and comfortable – to do so will bring about our fall, and someone else will take our place!  I say we still have a war to wage!  I say we support our Officers not just in prayer but action.  I say we support our Soldiers not just in flowery words on Sunday mornings behind the pulpit but with deep compassion, love, truth and by God’s authority.  When we are united as one Army, we are so much more effective than just solitary entities running around in the streets trying to do good.

Are we ready?
Let’s Go!
Let’s fight to the very end!
Let’s continue to wage this war – and through God’s power, we will prevail in this generation…and the next!!!

Questions to ponder: ponder
What can we do that is revolutionary to reach our community?
Are there “out of the box” methods we have yet to employ?
What is holding us back from employing them?
How much prayer to you devote to your mission and your community?
Are there burdens or unaddressed issues in your corps that need tending so that you can unite and move out into the streets?

I know it is easier said than done.
I know we all have so much to do.
I realize there are programs to “maintain”…but can we do ONE thing that impacts new lives for Christ?  Can we focus on individuals, not numbers?  Can we develop connections with people, not statistical figures?  Perhaps set a goal with your corps council or your local officers…or even just with yourself – to make one impactful relationship in the next three months.  Pray about who that will be.  Ask the Lord to lead you to that one person…and watch out!  When we are alert and aware of our surroundings, those people God places in our path will not be too hard to find.

Are you ready to answer that call?!

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

Dear Salvation Army, Baptism & The Great Commission?

16″ Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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)

Salvation Army Doctrine #1:We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.”

I do not mean to stir the waters, pun intended, but I have often wondered what your Salvationist response would be on this topic.  I must confess that I have often struggled with reconciling our doctrine with the lack of fulfillment of the great commission as described in verse 19; “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”   Yes, I understand that we are non-sacramental in religious practice, but one wonders why even such a discussion often evokes the same response one might expect from a discovery of a sin issue.  Seriously, it’s generally frowned upon, knee-jerk reactions abound every time Communion and Baptism are even mentioned.  It almost seems like we treat such conversations as heresy and equate such talk to sin.  Why is that?
Why such harsh attacks on even the mention of these religious practices?

I bring the topic of Baptism up today in this pondering so that we can dialogue together, so that we might bring a deeper understanding of our theology to the forefront and that we do not linger amongst the shallow answers of “Because that’s how we have always done things“…but why?

water

Historical Context:
We ought to recognize that Industrial England, the birth place of The Salvation Army, certainly had it dichotomy of the upper class and the poor.  Many within the lower East-end would not have been welcome in The Church of that day.  Also, within the lack of practice of Baptism and Communion, we know that our theological tradition precludes the need of such symbolic practices because we are “baptized by the Holy Spirit” and “The Sacrificial life is more important than participation in the Sacraments”.  Understandably so, but I wonder if such staunch views have prohibited some in recent years of full membership?  What I mean is, does our lack of practice or participation in these fundamental “Christian” elements, distract some would-be soldiers in joining our ranks?  There are certainly many views on the subject.  On one extreme – there are those within other denominations who feel since one was never “properly” Baptized they cannot claim to be Christians.  And then on the other side of the spectrum, there are those who view practices of water baptism to be archaic and unnecessary.

 So back to my original question…
If we believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice, Why do we fail to include parts of the “Great Commission”?  Again I don’t mean to stir up controversy, but I would like us to answer this…I want you to help me fill in the content here that I struggle with.  No, I don’t have a baptismal in my corps building, no I don’t baptize my members, but I’m curious how we decide to fulfill some of the “Divine rule of Christian faith and practice” while excluding others?  Why is this topic so taboo?

Another question that comes to my mind then is this:  Are we a fluid moving Army or are there somethings that cannot change within our structure and practice?  I am in no way advocating we change our stance on Baptism or Communion; but is there a point where the reasons we refrained from such practices in another age and era should be reconsidered in another age and era?  Would this be going backwards or progressing forward?  Or perhaps there is too much emphasis on the baptism part and there ought to be more emphasis made on the “make disciples” component to the Great Commission.  Perhaps this is the “happy middle”?

go

Again, I’m curious on your answers here.
As always, I look forward to the responses that sound off with shock and awe that such a question should ever be asked within the Army.  Again, it is surprising to me how we often treat this topic as “hush, hush“, almost as if we’re talking about a sin.  Why is that?  Couldn’t we even deepen our understanding of our own doctrine by talking out-loud about such things and there by adding clarity to the topic for others?  Also, I am not looking for a lecture here either, simply a dialogue and what your response might be on this specific topic.

Something more for the Army to ponder today, hopefully you don’t label me a heretic for even asking the question.  Blessings on you today!


Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are not necessarily the opinions and views of The Salvation Army, but rather the writer’s own thoughts, questions and opinions expressed.  Reader discretion is advised.  

Dear Salvationists, The Mercy Seat

The hope of the Army is in the penitent form.  As soon as that goes out of use, we go out” (General Albert Orsborn)

We call it the Mercy Seat, others call it the Penitent Form, still others call it the Altar.
Why is it there?
What is it’s purpose?
Is it still valid and needed today?

Perhaps these are just a few questions that you’ve wondered about as you have participated in a Salvation Army service or meeting.   Some have, perhaps, been soldiers for years and never quite understood why we do what we do when it comes time for the “altar call” or “time of response”.

Is this practice outdated or is it still useful?
What is the biblical understanding of the “mercy seat”?

I believe Major ViJay Boda puts it rather succinctly; ”

“The International Spiritual Life Commission affirmed to the whole Army world that the mercy seat in Salvation Army meetings symbolises God’s unremitting call to his people to meet with him. It is not only a place for repentance and forgiveness, but also a place for communion and commitment. The report emphasises, ‘Here we may experience a deep awareness of God’s abundant grace and claim his boundless salvation.’

Encouraging the use of the mercy seat, the commission says, ‘The mercy seat may be used by any one, at any time, and particularly in Army meetings when, in response to the proclaimed word, all are invited to share loving and humble communion with the Lord.”

altar.jpgThis is a good explanation, and perhaps some of us are good at explaining this to new comers or new soldiers…but sometimes I think we need a refresher course.  We need to break old patterns and old molds in order to better understand what we are doing at the Mercy Seat or why we have these moments of commitment at all.

Biblically speaking, the Mercy Seat is first mentioned in connection with the Ark of the Covenant.  It is the “kapporet“, or the “atonement piece”.  Later it was the ornate golden cover to the ark with two cherub corners.  Imagine that, the “atonement piece” covers the opening to the very presence of God.

altar2Symbolically speaking, Jesus became our once for all- atonement piece – our mercy seat.  His blood makes us clean, and his provenient grace cancels our debts/sin.  When we kneel at this place of repentance that we call the Altar, or Penitent Form, or Mercy Seat, we are essentially placing our sins on Christ.  We lay them down, and in so doing, we are invited to pick up new clothes, a new life, this unmerited grace and forgiveness that Christ has prepared for us in His death and resurrection.

This Mercy Seat can be a sacred place.
We can kneel upon it in our corps buildings during Holiness meetings, we can find it at special events where seats have been turned around waiting for those willing to repent or seek reconciliation.  These sacred spaces are not necessarily holy in and of themselves.  They are just structures, constructed with human hands, but purposed for Divine encounters.

altar1BUT WAIT… 
The Mercy Seat is so much more than a specific place.
We, being the very essence and the body of Christ, now have access to this mercy seat anywhere at anytime and anyplace.  No, it’s not some new application found on our cellular devices or on our computers.  This Mercy Seat is never far from us, even when we find ourselves at home or bedridden with illness – it is there!   This Mercy Seat is found in our hearts.  When we receive Christ at a place of forgiveness and new life, such as the Altar, we also receive the blessing of His Holy Presence.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us.  Not in some sort of alien “body snatchers” way, but rather in a Creator meets and communes with Creation sort of way.  With His presence comes the mercy seat of our hearts, where we can come at any time before Him to confess, commune and grow in Christ’s image.

Samuel Logan Brengle once said, “I have carried a penitent form (mercy seat) around in my heart half a century or more. And if there is ever any need, I constantly fly to thee.
altar3
1 Mercy Seat – Many Uses (Not Just A Place For Sinners!!!)
Before I close this topic  today, (honestly, this is a primer for further discussion), I would be remiss not to mentioned  that the Mercy Seat is SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PLACE FOR SINNERS.  It takes real courage sometimes to come before the ecclesia (body of believers – A.K.A. The Church) and kneel at the Altar.   Sometimes many worry about what others might think or say (Shame on anyone who would say anything towards a brother or sister penitent before the Lord).  Sometimes this erroneous thought that keeps on circulating spoken or unspoken – is that once one has gone to the Altar they shouldn’t have to go back anymore.  Nothing could be further from the truth!!

If one of our more esteemed first theologians (Brengle) went to his Mercy Seat frequently, how much more do we still need it in our lives?

The Mercy Seat still beckons us to:
-Come and Reconnect with our Savior.
-Come and bring petitions and prayers as intercessors.
-Come and cast our  prayers of thanksgivings to Him.
-Come and seek forgiveness again.
-Come and find reconciliation and re-ignition.
-Come and pour out those deeply secret spaces of our hearts before the Holy Spirit who has been prodding us to let Him in.
-Come to surrender, or surrender again.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs encouragement and assurance.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who needs a friend.
-Come and bring your brother or sister who desires new life and is sick of sin.

So is the Mercy Seat pointless in our modern, sophisticated age?
Yes, it’s as pointless as the Son of God stepping down out of heaven and taking our sins upon himself…if that is truly pointless – then so are our lives.

No, in fact the Mercy Seat is so much more than just a kneeling place for sinners or saints…it is the exhalation of sin and in the very same moment, the inhalation of salvation, new life and holiness.  It ought to be perpetuated, preached on, and emphasized over and over again – with clarity, sincerity and truth.

For more reading on this topic check out another post: Is Your Mercy Seat Broken?

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

Hope In Discouragement?

Let’s face it, we’ve all been to the well of discouragement.
We drink from this well from time to time.
Discouragement is alive and well in this world.
It can hit us at anytime and any place, especially when we aren’t looking for it…most of the time, unless we’re a glutton for punishment, we don’t go looking for trouble and/or disappointment.

Pick Your Poison: poison
-We find discouragement when:
-our friends let us down.
-our workplace and those we work with treat us poorly.
-there is added stress at home.
-our kids act out or are struggling, or are rebellious.
-our health or the health of loved ones is in question.
-we are stressed out with the responsibilities of life and work and the ever increasing “to do” list seems to never end.
-when depression hits.
-when we are in a financial mess.
-when, when, when….

Truths: 
discourageDiscouragement happens.
People will sometimes let us down.
Health, finances, relationships, families, hopes, dreams, school – all can wane from time to time.

I don’t say this to further discourage you today, I say this because we MUST face reality – Discouragement is often times unavoidable.

– BUT – 

We don’t have to live there.
We don’t have to continually drink from this well and let it further poison our faith, our relationships, our lives.  We can find hope in the midst of discouragement!

Question: How do we find this hope even when we are discouraged?  
Here are 4 Answers: 

discouragement1.  Don’t Quit! 
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
-Galatians 6:9
Discouragement will tell you to just quit.
It may try and convince you that you’re not strong enough or good enough or healthy enough, and that you should just quit.  – DON’T!  Don’t give up, don’t quit, don’t let the lie saturate your faith and hope.  FIGHT!
You WILL see better days again!
You WILL survive this season of discouragement.
You WILL find happiness and hope again!

eyes2. Walk By Faith, Not By Sight!
for we walk by faith, not by sight.” -2 Corinthians 5:7
The Apostle Paul and the early Church faced many obstacles, frustrations, persecution and extreme discouragement – yet they did not quit.  Why?  Because their mission and purpose was bigger than they were!
In this faith, we have been given a very large mission and purpose, and it’s bigger than we are!  We are called to this higher purpose and with that we drink from a well that provides us with life, strength and hope!  Although we can’t see what tomorrow holds, and all we might be seeing right now is this discouragement in our lives, we can boldly step forward and onward because we know WHO HOLDS THE FUTURE!   With this knowledge firmly in grasp, we can survive these days of discouragement!  We cannot allow discouragement to dictate what our next steps will be!  Don’t allow it hold you captive – Christ can and will break these chains in your life!  Simply (although it isn’t always so simple, this we all know) trust in Him!  Cry out to the Father!  Ask for His Holy presence to guide and sustain you!  It may be hell right now, but you can keep going because you have this amazing faith to rely on!

3.  No Pain, No Gain!?! -Right?! pain1
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” -1 Corinthians 9:24
This is about holiness, about Christ-likeness, but this is also about striving beyond our discouragements and pains and into something eternally worth-while!  We will face opposition, pain and discouragement!  We will endure hardships, stresses, sleepless nights and pain, but we MUST gut it out!  We must persevere beyond the turmoil and the pain.  When we keep going through perseverance, we will rediscover the hope that His holy presence has placed in our lives!  Keep going, keep on – His well of living water will restore your discouraged life!

  1. He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
    His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
    His power no boundary known unto men;
    For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
    He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
    (“He Giveth more grace” -by Annie Flint)

hope34.  The Source Of Our HOPE is External not Internal!  
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
When we are facing our struggles and discouragements and troubles, we might only be seeing that which frustrates and defeats us.  We might be treading water but our eyes are only focused on the strong currents of those waters as they attempt to pull us under.  We might be missing the strong hand of the rescuer as He attempts to pull us up out of those depths.  The source of our salvation doesn’t come from ourselves, although at times we try and fool ourselves into thinking that WE have it all under control.  -That WE don’t need rescuing.  -That WE don’t need help period.  Sure, help is for the weak, for the helpless, but we’re not helpless, we’re strong – we’re almost superhuman.  NEWSFLASH: We aren’t superhuman.  We need help!  We need continual saving.  We need His source and supply of strength, hope, glory, grace, endurance.

Questions:

-Does God still supply your needs?
-Are you trusting in Him to be there for you?
-Are you allowing Him access to your life so that He can do the rescuing OR are you still attempting to control it all and save yourself?

This discouragement that you’re facing isn’t new.
Many have walked the path that you’re on right now.
Many have survived – and so can you!
Don’t simply rely on your own strength to just “survive”.
Allow God’s holy presence to be with you and to provide what you need when these days of discouragement do happen!

You aren’t alone in this battle!
He will come through for you even in the midst of the storms that you are facing right now.
Take heart, the Lord is with you!

Prayer:
Dear Lord, I cannot see this path that I am on right now.
All I can see are the crashing waves that are about to envelop me.
I confess that I have often attempted to take control of my life while failing to include you in it.
I am often times stubborn and I fail to ask you for your help.
Be with me today.  Help me.  Guide me.  It is your strength that I seek, your wisdom that I need.
Deliver me from these waves of discouragement, I want to drink deeply of your living water again today.
In your name I pray these things.  -Amen.

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

Dear Salvation Army, Why I Don’t Agree With “Saved to Save”

Today we ponder The Salvation Army’s quote of “Saved to Save” and why I don’t necessarily agree with it.
Clarification: I am not discounting the fact that God can save us, in fact that is the crux of this statement in my opinion.
crest
Dear Salvation Army, I don’t believe we are saved to save.
There I’ve said it.

I believe the Holy Spirit has saved us, I am not disagreeing with that by any means.
I know what it means to kneel at the altar of repentance and receive forgiveness and salvation.
I also believe in the second blessing – the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in our lives.
When He takes up residence in our lives we begin, with His direction and prodding, the intentional shift of reflecting more and more of Christ and less and less of our old lives (Holiness).

Thus when we are saved we do not go out and save others.
I believe that the saving is NOT the work that we have been called to do.
Instead, we are called to be holy.
In this response we begin to see others the way Christ sees them.
We begin to love the way Christ loves.
It isn’t perfect…and perhaps it may never be, but the initial transformation must begin internally before it can be transformative in the lives of others.

What I’m not saying
Photo Mar 10, 11 06 52 AMI am not saying we aren’t called to lead others to Christ.
I am also not saying that we don’t show care for others.

In fact we, through this internal transformation, begin to see the necessity to usher others to Christ.
We begin to understand how vital the new life is for others.

                                                                  BUT…
Uni1Here is where I draw the line.
Here is where I wage and struggle with the Salvation Army’s understanding of this quote.
Whose work is it to save?
Who does the prodding of the heart and the pleading of the soul?
Who takes aim at the conviction of sin and implores the search of forgiveness?
For me the answer has always been the Holy Spirit.

What is our responsibility then? 
What are we as Soldiers of the cross to do?  uniform2
We sing songs like “The world for God” and “Marching on“, and I wonder if we sometimes turn the warfare of sin and the spiritual realms into something narcissistic, and it then becomes all about us?   It then becomes all about what WE can do instead of what the Holy Spirit IS doing.

There is always the temptation to say look how wonderful The Salvation Army is, look at the amazing things that we have done and the amazing things that we are doing.  Slowly, the focus is taken off of the Holy Spirit and more on our shiny uniforms, our programs and our feats and accomplishments.   I am not saying that we always do this, but I am saying that it does become a temptation, that it does enter into our thoughts and motivations.

Our responsibility was never to “saved to save”.
Our responsibility was never to be the salvation of man.
We are merely the conduit of this amazing grace.
We are merely called to be faithful.
Our responsibility is first a call to faithfulness to The Holy Spirit.
We can do nothing without this first response.
We are powerless to save anyone let alone ourselves.
How can we then say that we are saved to save?
I am more inclined to say we are saved to serve.
We are saved first, and then most importantly, we serve and respond to the Holy Spirit.
Then, and only then, we are saved to serve suffering humanity.
This response can be simultaneous and should compel us to respond as Christ would to the suffering of others. We must respond to His call on our lives to serve Him as HE saves!
Without Him we cannot save.
Without Him we can only do good works and be another social service agency.
That isn’t all bad, good things are done here…BUT we are called to be more.
We are called to BE holy…and from this calling, we serve Him and in turn we serve others.

You may differ from my opinion…that’s fine.
We are called, and from this calling we go.
Regardless of if we are “Saved to Serve” or “Saved to Save”, may our immediate response to the Holy Spirit be one of obedience.

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

Burn Your Ships And Commit!

cortesThe History Lesson
In 1519 Hernan Cortes, Spanish explorer, landed on Mexican soil.
He and his 600 Spanish troops were commissioned to take Mexico for Spain.
In a swift move to stave off any thoughts of retreat, he commanded that his fleet be burned.

Can you imagine being one of those six hundred men on alien soil standing there watching your only lifeline to the ‘old life’ being burned at sea.  The only recourse was to make progress deeper into this unknown land; to fight, survive and claim it for the crown.  The ships were gone, they had to fully commit or die.

For Us. 
I am not justifying any other actions of Cortes.
Some of his decisions were down right brutal.
That being said, I do believe that there is something here for us today.

Spiritually speaking…
Have we burned our ships in the act of a full commitment to Christ?
Or
Are we still looking back longingly at the places that we used to live before we accepted this new life in the form of Salvation?   Do we (even subconsciously) consider this “commitment” to be temporary while all along we have a fall back plan in case it just doesn’t pan out?

I believe even Jesus had disciples in His day that had one foot in the new life while the other foot was still firmly grounded in the old.

Read:
(Luke 9:57-62)

The Cost of Following Jesus
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

The cost of following Christ is high!
The commitment level of such a calling is total or none at all.
We cannot have one foot in the new life while our other foot is firmly planted in the old life.
Either we are all in or we are not in at all.

Perhaps it is time that we burned the ships.
Perhaps it is time to burn that which holds us back from making that full commitment to Christ.
Don’t allow those things to pull you in two different directions any longer.
His path, His calling is the path of true peace, of true redemption, of true love.
When we burn the ships, we can no longer turn back from His will for our lives. ships
He wants a relationship with us that requires a full commitment.
So, how about it, are we willing to burn the ships?

Something more to ponder today!

Dear Salvation Army, A Persecuted Army: Joy In Suffering???

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4

Last week, a horrific attack took place in Kenya.
The aftermath left 147 people dead…mostly students…many were Christians.
It is heartbreaking.
Violence and religion seem to be odd partners.
Radical groups, terrorism, and death seem to plague our world.

Our hearts ache for those who are immediately affected by such acts of appalling violence.
Let me be honest, senseless killings not only makes me sad, it makes me angry.
The world is still filled with bullies and power-hungry zealots.

churchIt WILL get worse!
I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom today, but I can’t help but feel that things are going to get a lot worse for Christians before it will get better.  Many within our ranks in various places in Africa, India, Asia and the Middle East place their lives on the line for the cause of Christ daily…and we should be praying for them!
As an Army of Salvation, we have the opportunity to provide love and care to many corners of our world…we are even able to gain access to places most churches aren’t allowed to go because we provide humanitarian aid.

Is the cause of Christ worth our sacrifice? bible2
I sure hope so!
– Are we living up to our calling to love the unlovable?
– Are we living up to our calling to clothe and feed the poor?
– Are we living up to our calling to take care of the orphans and widows?
– Are we striving to be the very reflection of Christ in our corner of the world?

If Christians suffer persecution, you can bet that The Salvation Army will suffer too because we go to the places with the most need!  We engage in the mission on the front lines.  We cannot be afraid, we cannot falter in our call.
I am not writing these words to “puff us up”, I am writing these words to encourage our Army to continue on into the fight even in the face of persecution and the possibility of death.  If we take up our crosses and follow Jesus, sometimes that path leads us through the very valley of the shadow of death.  We do not fight for General Booth, he was a mere faithful servant of Christ, no, we fight for souls because Christ has saved us and has commissioned us to go!

To my brothers and sisters, fellow soldiers in our Army in places like Kenya, who have been immediately impacted by violence and threatened with death for your faith, we pray for you!  You are not alone!  We support you, some of us will join you on these front lines!  Your faith is strong and I want to encourage you to keep holding up Christ’s light of compassion and hope to all who need it!  You are a shining example of perseverance to the faith, may the rest of us be as bold as you! Keep your standards high, and show us, by your example, how we ought to be conducting ourselves as soldiers of the cross!  perse

I am reminded of this song in our red song books:
SASB #825
1. Christ for the world, we sing;
The world to Christ we bring
with loving zeal;
The poor and those who mourn,
the faint and overborne,
sin-sick and sorrow-worn,
whom Christ doth heal.

2.  Christ for the world, we sing;
The world to Christ we bring
with fervent prayers;
The wayward and the lost
by restless passions tossed,
redeemed at countless cost
from dark despair.

4.  Christ for the world, we sing;
The world to Christ we bring
with one accord;
with us the work to share,
with us reproach to dare,
with us the cross to bare,
for Christ our Lord.
-Samuel Wolcott (1813-86)

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

“NOT WORTHLESS!!” 3 Ways to Discovering Your Self-Worth Pt.2

Yesterday we explored three basic lies that many have convinced themselves are important in order have a sense of self-worth.  (See Pt. 1 Link Here)
(RECAP) These basic lies are –
#1 Self-worth is all about what you do (Employment/Career).
#2 Self-worth is all about how others see you (the People pleaser trap)
#3 Self-worth is all about being “happy” all the time.

Now onto the “good” stuff – Discovering true self-worth.
You can’t buy self-worth…at least not in the long term.
You can’t work capture self-worth by attaining your “dream job” either.
These things are temporary.

vaporOur Lives Are Like Vapor:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

Understand how temporal this all is.
I don’t mean to sound all “doom and gloom”, but this life is brief…we can make a difference in how we live by recognizing this one. small. truth.
We.  Are. Like. Vapor.   So…what are we going to do with this “vapor” of ours?

#1 Our true Self-Worth is found not in who we are but Whose we are!child
“And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” -2 Corinthians 6:18

Beyond anything that we can “do” in this world, the most vital argument for finding our true self-worth is tied up with Whose we really are.  Places of employment and careers are great things but they shouldn’t be the primary definer of who we really are.  From the very onset of creation God longed to fellowship with us.  He has made a way for this to happen even when we distorted our true identities with sin.  In a very real sense realizing Whose we are leads us to find our true self-worth in life.  This doesn’t mean that nothing else matters now in life, it just means that we re-align our perspectives in life allowing for this primal and vital identity to take first priority in our being, thereby releasing false images of self-worth while reclaiming this ancient, yet eternal truth – We are God’s creation, and we are called sons and daughters.

In moments when we feel the sting of rejection by others around us, let us remember that despite all of these things we are His -both first, last and everything in between.

cross#2 Our true Self-Worth is found not in our identity but in Christ’s!

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” -2 Corinthians 5:17

I hope you get the sense that all three of these “self-worth declarations”  are interconnected.
Once we can come to terms with the notion that we are children of God, we too must understand that our self-worth isn’t tied up in the old life prior to conversion.  Since Christ has conquered sin and death, we too can share in this eternal redemption story!  If we are Christ-followers, we too recognize that the old lives we used to live prior to our salvation story no longer dictate where our self-worth comes from.  Before this we followed the ingrained patterns, we indulged in selfish gain, we strive to climb the corporate ladder because that’s where true success and self-worth came from…But now, ah now we are no longer blind to these trappings.  It doesn’t mean that we have become better than others, it just means that we have begun to identify with the eternal Christ more than the temporal measures of self-worth.

Becoming crucified with Christ means that we have aligned ourselves with His love, His redemption, His purposes, His grace. We have allowed Christ to replace the lie with His truth within us.  This new creation (because of Christ) provides us with a deeper, more clearer sense of self-worth because it is divine and untarnished by our old sinful selves.

Within this identity shift, recognize too that we must be gentle on ourselves.  What do I mean by this?  Don’t denigrate and berate yourself when you slip and fall back into some of the old patterns.  These old habits are sometimes hard to break.  That doesn’t mean that Christ can’t miraculously redeem you from them, but many times we must strive to overcome them through His power…sometimes inch by inch and yard by yard.  Be gentle on yourself as you realign your self-worth with that of Christ’s.  Sometimes we can become our own worst enemy…If Christ believes in you, you too should find some encouragement and confidence to believe in this new creation that is “You”.

#3 Our true Self-Worth is found not in being served but through service! service
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…” 1 Peter 5:6

“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” Ephesians 4:2

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Jesus washed His disciple’s feet.
He did this to display how vital humility and servanthood was.
Serving others because of our new identities in Christ is an outpouring of this new self-worth and purpose!
No longer are we tied to what others think of us.
No longer are we tied to a self-indulged lifestyle.
No longer are we tied to a selfish success oriented binge of climbing the corporate ladder.

Fame and fortune (which is temporal) take a back seat to the utter gravity of the Salvation Story.
We find our self-worth in serving others because we long to be like Christ in every way!
When we follow this path of servitude, we further execute our old ideals of self-worth while taking up far more significant and eternally impacting cause!  serve

Sometimes we assume that we have this humility thing all worked out, only to find that we still have miles to go in this journey. Be patient.  This is day by day.  Submitting to Christ completely can be will be difficult…But isn’t identifying with authentic worth…worth it?

So…
How is your own sense of self-worth today?
Has it been tied up with all the wrong things?
Mine has too.
This is a reminder for all of us.
This is a pondering of encouragement also.
Perhaps we can break these old lies of their power over us, and rediscover how God intended us to live all along.

Something more for us all to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, The Angel Said Whaaaaaaat???

(Luke 1:26-45)
Today’s Pondering, Dear Soldier…

It had been a quiet morning as the sun seemingly struggled to wake the slumbering cobwebs from the earth.  This is how Mary always began her day.  She helped her mother prepare the house then it was off to collect water and the list went on… The sun began to pour into their dwelling, rays of gold catching every glimmer and spec of dust falling in the air.  Mary enjoyed these silent, ponderous moments.  Abruptly, her silent moment is caught by the heel and turned upside down in the most remarkable way possible.  Perhaps, years later, she will look back upon her life and identify this as the moment when everything changed.

Her neck hairs stand on end and she immediately knows that she is not alone.  Something behind her catches the eye…movement.  Spinning around swiftly she is caught off guard by the imagery in front of her.  Imagine something not of this earth, strikingly radiant, suddenly appearing in your home.  Wouldn’t you be caught off guard as well?
mary1
She notices beyond the aura of light that a being stands before her.
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ An unknown voice calls out.  The being’s voice is deep, confident and strong.  Mary is afraid.  A momentary swell of fear captures her and she is glued in place, unable to move.  Mary peers around for the closest door, her muscles tense as she prepares to escape this fear.  But The angel, for that is what it is, calls out again and says “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over the house of Jacob                                                                                   forever; his kingdom will never end.”  


Whaaaat???

Okay, perhaps Mary’s response wasn’t exactly like that, but a look of concern crosses her face.  How could this be?  She isn’t even married yet.  She is, in fact, still a virgin.  It is unnatural, unheard of, it is just too much to take in all at once.  The Angel had told her not to be afraid and yet she was certainly anxious and afraid.

There in that lowly room so long ago, history was being made.  It didn’t happen to a mighty queen,  nor did it happen to one who was prepared for such a feat…but it happened to a teenage girl, inexperienced in the world, naive and young.  How could this be?  The Savior of the world is placed in the arms, or soon would be, of a young woman.  Think of it!  Mary experiences this theophany of sorts and the symphony of salvation is born to all the world!

I find it interesting that Mary doesn’t refuse the Angel’s announcement, or laugh as Zacharias (Elizabeth’s husband) does.  She takes in this message.  She absorbs the news.  She is strong, much stronger than most…perhaps this is one of the reasons she is chosen to be the mother of Jesus.  It still astounds us today if we contemplate it long enough.  Salvation will be born of a virgin.  Could it be that because of such a concept the Christ is not born into sin as we were?  Could it be that all of the “messiah’s” who came before Jesus, the bloodshed, the violence was all in vain?  Could it be that man’s attempts to find salvation and restoration from sin was imperfect for the lambs they were sacrificing were also imperfect and not enough?  There is much to ponder here today my friends.

Immediately following the proclamation from Gabriel, Mary runs as fast as she can to the nearby village…(was it the same day? Was it immediately, as in ‘that day’?  We don’t know, it just says “at that timeMary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea.) Perhaps she stumbles a few times on the way in her haste to seek out solace and reassurance.   Mary seeks out the comfort of family.  She seeks out someone in whom to confide.  No one will believe that she is still a virgin.  No one will accept such a tale…but family, the trusted few will help, protect and guide.

For Us…faith2
What do we make of this tale?  What do we find reassuring from this record?  Is there not something we can all glean from this?  What does faith look like, dear soldier?  Certainly Mary’s response to the Angel’s proclamation is a indication of courage and faith.  Certainly the mother of Jesus provides us with an example of how we are to respond to the workings of the Lord.  Are we so far removed from this narrative?  Does this not still impact our daily lives?   Mary doesn’t laugh at the Angel.  She doesn’t weep and rebel and refuse to participate in this salvation story…in fact she accepts it and moves forward.  It doesn’t say that her life improves immediately.  I am sure she could not have hidden this pregnancy for too long.  From a pure physical perspective, Mary’s life could have been in danger and at the very least susceptible to all kinds of scorn, gossip and sideways glances.  “Oh look, there goes THAT Girl“.

QUESTIONS:
How do we respond to the leading of the Lord in our lives?
What is our response?
Are we fully submitted to His will or do we still struggle, moaning and groaning within this call?
Can we reflect within this holy narrative today?
Can we find comfort in a mighty God?
Have we forgotten, or taken His holy presence for granted, especially during this busy season?

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
renew us again.  May we respond to you as Mary once did so long ago.  We all face challenges, some large and some small, instill in us Your comfort again no matter what season we are in.  We long to be your people.  We long to give you praise in all things.  Refine us, O Lord.  Restore unto us, this joy of our salvation today!  Reignite our passion to serve you and to reach out to those who are still lost.  O Lord, we can do nothing without your hand upon us.  Journey beside us today.  This we pray.  -Amen.

To God Be The Glory!

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