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!

Could Communion Be Overshadowing Something More Important?

Sometimes, perhaps, Christians become so focused upon one aspect of the Jesus’ teachings that it nearly overshadows another important teaching – humility and service.
What I mean is that Jesus breaking the bread and pouring the wine was not the only aspect of becoming like Christ for His disciples.  The act in and of itself was not mysterious, but it was significant.  Jesus spoke to His disciples and the crowds using Rabbinical parables to illustrate and to teach.  Is it really much of a stretch then to consider He was using the Passover bread and wine to do the same here?  Of course not!

The Path To Sacrificial Love:
In order to become like Christ in every way, Jesus does something more significant for His disciples at Passover – He washes their feet.  Towards the end of the meal, as recorded in John 13:13-15, Jesus gets up takes off his outer garments and puts a towel around His waist.  He then pours water into a basin and does the unthinkable.  He stoops down low, kneels before His students, in essence becoming a servant or slave to them and washes their feet.  Talk about significant!  Jesus illustrates for His disciples how to serve others.  Isn’t that the path to sacrificial love?  Shouldn’t this become our focal point more often in our living rather than a monthly or weekly ceremonial breaking of the bread?

But Get This…
What if one of these things lead to the other?
What I mean by that is this: What if by serving your fellow parishioners, neighbors, even enemies led to holy communion with one another?  I don’t mean simply going to the nearest church and participating in a communion service, I mean literal fellowship…holy fellowship with one another because we are willing to place each other before ourselves…what if?
What would happen then?  Do you see what I’m saying?  It is so much harder to do than a ceremony.  It is so much more strenuous to “get along” with others let alone serve one another…but isn’t that the path to sacrificial love?

The Cart Before The Horse…
Sure, it’s most likely assumed that these two elements of Christ’s teachings go together, but do they really in today’s “Christian” world?  I mean it’s simple to follow through the motions on a simple ritual week after week in church, but is it really that simple to become like Christ by becoming the servant and serving those around us?   I would contend that it is not.  It is much easier to say the words than to live out the context of those words.  Could it be that before holy fellowship (as I described it above) can be performed one must take off their outer garments, place a towel around the waist and serve?
Jesus said, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21)…what would happen if our treasure was two-fold (1) Christ and then (2) others?  Would we have to look very far to see either?  NO!

John 13:12-17 – “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

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

Beware of the Relapse

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But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”  –2 Corinthians 11:3 

Christ-follower beware!

 

 

ImageSalvation 
            is freely available…BUT

It 
can
     be

       Image

 

 

 

 

We have
this thing
called

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Free Will
allows us to 
choose                                                                           It allows us to 
                                                                                       live beneath God’s

Image

                                                                                             Image

 

                                                                                                    2

Image
Reject His Grace…

Here is 
a
Truth:
A Relapse 

into

Image

 

is a very
real 
Danger!

It begins in our Hearts 
              &
           Minds.

A Saint (that’s You & Me)
is still 

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to the 
trappings

of

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Don’t 
be
swept 
away
by it’s lure
and its
sultry voice.

 

Image

Stand Firm…
                                                                                               Meditate
                                                                                                      on

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Do Not
become Prideful
and think for 
one second                                                                         You are
                                                                                         Invulnerable!

Spiritual
Relapse
is very 
real!

so….

Image

 

Just 
more of                                                       this
                                                                   Pastor’s

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Prayer for Intimacy (Poem & Prayer)

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Lord, you know how distracted I can be.
How I can hide my heart from you.
Break down these walls in which I hide.
Make me vulnerable and pliable to You.
I do not desire a divided heart…
and yet I often find myself there.
I thirst for You, Dear Lord;
I long for Your holy presence.
Create in me this clean heart
so that I can love and serve You sincerely, 
clearly…
articulated 
authentic and pure…
complete…and whole.
Lord you know how distracted I can be…
become my full focus…
become my everything…
Consume my heart and mind,
make me wholly Yours.  

-Amen.  

Confessions of a Deadman

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What would the conversation look like?  The amazement.  The confusion.  He had been dead…as a door nail.  What’s a door nail by the way?…ok I digress.  The look of shock, the spirit of disbelief in his sister’s eyes.  They had been there when he had breathed his last.  They had mourned his passing.  The sting of death still lingered in their hearts and minds like the peeling blister on a sunburn.  This emotional roller coaster had just careened into the station though their stomachs and emotions still lingered somewhere behind them on the track.  

It had been four days since he had died.  Four long and agonizing days.  How his sisters had wept bitterly.  How little they had slept…was this all a dream?  Could this really be happening?  What goes on in the spiritual realm when someone dies?  What did Lazarus go through in those four days of death?  Did he see a great light?  Did he have an out of body experience?  Was he in heaven?  Oh how little we know about the life to come.  

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Sitting at the table with a deadman, what must his sisters have wanted to ask.  “Did you see any family there?”  “Did you meet Yahweh?”  “What was it like?”  Idle curiosity must have played a factor in this postmortem interval family reunion.  After four days in the tomb, in his final resting place, he was hungry.  Sitting at the table with nourishment (evidence and a source of all preservation of life) of water and food Lazarus, who was now reanimated.  He longed to soak up his sister’s presence once more.  They lingered together.  Isn’t it interesting how we miss the company of those we love when we have been far from them?  Death, though only separated by this thin membrane of a veil, had separated these loved ones from each other…now it had been torn with the authority of Jesus’ words;   “Lazarus, come forth!”  

What did Lazarus experience at this call?  Not only did his deceased bones reanimate, but with it organs, blood circulation and brain function reignited as well.  The impossible became possible.  The very breath of life exhaled and inhaled into dormant unusable lungs of a corpse.  

What could he tell his family of such an experience?  What did this deadman have to say?  Jesus, the life bringer, had raised him from the dead…he had kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil…he was completely and totally devoid of life.  Lazarus had experienced the mystery of the great beyond and his sisters would undoubtedly hang on his every word in his retelling…wouldn’t you?  We read of stories of children and adults who have experienced something when they had “died” and were then resuscitated.  We are truly a curious creation aren’t we?  We want to know what is next.  What comes after this life.  Some ask if there really is something after this life.  I doubt Lazarus would have had any other doubts about the existence of the hereafter.  

Do you have doubts?  We all do from time to time.  Perhaps Jesus needs to breathe some life into our doubting hearts.  Perhaps we need Him to call us forth from our caves or tombs of doubt.  I often find myself like Thomas longing to physically touch his nail wrecked hands and feet.  I long for the tangible frequently when faith has pushed off from the docks of reality and the “real world”.  Please tell me I am not the only one?  Don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  I am not saying I disbelieve, but I am saying that I often find myself on those docks of belief watching faith ship off without me aboard.  I long yearn to be aboard but something has stopped me.  In a very real sense I am the deadman in need of being resurrected.  My faith needs resurrecting daily.  Don’t think ill of me…it’s a principle of momentum.  

Momentum has a way of pushing and driving something forward…if I stop, momentum stops.  In application of this principle, if I stop my prayer life, if I hit the pause button on my devotion life (my quiet times with the Lord), if I halt my daily conversations with The Father…I have lost momentum, and in this loss I am once again a deadman.  I am once again in need of reanimation.  I need to be called forth.  Am I alone in this?  Please tell me I am not.  I doubt I am.  I think you may relate to me.  This is my confession of a deadman…Jesus, call me forth again!  

-Just a thought.  

“Ambassadors of Reconciliation”

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“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” -2 Corinthians 5:20

One of my favorite words in the English language is “Reconciliation”.  The etymology of the word reconcile comes from the Latin “reconcilare” which means “to bring together again”.  

When Jesus came into this world and identified with humanity as the God-man He sought to bring together again the original creation of man with God the Father.  Did you catch that?  At one time, in our original state, we were together with God.  He would walk with Adam and Eve.  He would fellowship with them in the garden of Eden.  He actually, physically, walked WITH them.  

But.

Because of original sin, which entered the picture, we became separated from God.  Think of it like a great big, messy divorce…except we were the offending party and God the Father did nothing to deserve our infidelity.  How it must have wrecked His heart to find us unfaithful to Him.  To find out we (Adam and Eve) deliberately and consciously disobeyed Him.  But we all know this story don’t we?  We understand the consequences of the fall of man…don’t we? 

Yes Jesus came. 

He came to set things right with us.  

He came to Reconcile us (back again) into the Father’s arms.  

Think about that for a moment.  Isn’t that beautiful?  Doesn’t that evoke in you some sort of longing to physically be embraced by God the Father as you enter into the wedding feast?  Jesus came to restore us.  He came for the whosoever…those who would actually come seeking Him.  

But, wait…there’s more. 

When we face the God-man, Jesus Christ, for who He is and what He came to do, we make a vital decision.  We, who have then become Christ-followers, we choose to become like Him in our daily living.  A part of this “becoming” is to pick up where Jesus left off.  We follow in the footsteps of the Rabbi, but in so doing we shuck off our old identities and adopt (not just imitate, but become) Christ in  our everything!  

Taking it a step further, we are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world relaying the vital message of reconciliation to the whosoever. There is a misnomer though that I think we buy into once in a while – “Reconciliation is only for the sinner”.  This is simply not true.  Though we have become like Christ in every way, shape or form (or so we think thus far) we are still in need of THAT reconciliation daily!  

The Hebrew words associated to the word “Ambassador” are: “tsir” or “melits” and “malak”.  Essentially they mean “an interpreter” or “a messenger”.  

When we think of Ambassadors today we think of politicians from certain countries whose job it is to broker peace and trade agreements with other countries.  But we as Christ-followers are also called to be ambassadors of reconciliation to the sinner and the saint.  Taking it a step further being an Ambassador also implies that we are to literally breathe Christ’s message into other people by our words and more importantly by our actions.  

How can we provide clear interpretation of God and that of His love to those around us if we have not fully adopted and reconciled ourselves to His love as well?  If this reconciled life is not within us then we cannot breathe this into other people’s lives.  So as an Ambassador it has to begin with You…and it has to begin with me.  

It first must become personal…daily, even moment by moment breathing Christ’s holiness and likeness into our own hearts and minds through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Philippians 4:8).    

Prayer: 

Dear Lord, let it begin with me.  Breathe on me breath of God, allow me to be reconciled to You daily.  Help me to see that I am called to be your messenger to others, even other saints.  Help me to be the best Ambassador for you that I can be.  May it be my lifelong passion which begins moment by moment with you.  In Your Holy name I pray these things, -Amen.  

Either Put Up or Shut Up! I’m All in or nothing at all!

The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 

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The Jewish leaders struggled over 613 individual moral statutes or commands by which they were to live and conduct themselves.  Sometimes they debated among themselves as to which of these moral statutes were vital and which of them were less vital.  They didn’t want to make the mistake of placing some statues above more important one and vice-versa.  Yet this struggle brought itself right before Jesus.  One of the teachers ventured to ask Him this question, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28).  

Jesus laid it all out for those who would hear Him; “The most important one,” Jesus answered, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Now, dear fellow Christ-follower, it is either time for us to put up or shut up.  I don’t mean to be crass here or offend you, but I cannot stress how vital it is for us to love the Lord with every fiber of our being.  Jesus placed this as the #1 priority in the lives of those asking and still today it ought to be #1 in our lives as well.  

Let me illustrate: 

Our homes are powered by electricity (well most of them are anyway).  If we were to bring in a brand new television to watch we first must take it out of the box and connect it to a power source.  Without the power source all of our favorite shows and possibilities are impossible.  We need to plug that television into the power in order for anything to happen, without it nothing works and nothing ever will.

Without first loving God with our EVERYTHING nothing else will work.  Without first loving God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength we are powerless.  It is either all or nothing.  God doesn’t want a partial kind of love.  He isn’t some on again off again God, either get on board with Him and love Him completely or don’t at all.  

Secondly, don’t try and fake out God…He’s not buying the act.  Others might see how good we look dressed up for Church and how we act in front of other Christians but if this isn’t consisted behind the scenes God knows.  This is a tough pill to swallow.  I’m not here to say that I have this all figured out either, because I too struggle at times with a divided heart.  Not intentionally mind you, but at times I catch myself and find that I have to once again realign my relationship and priorities with God.  

How is your heart today?  Do you find that at times you have a divided heart when it comes to your relationship with the Lord?  Perhaps it’s time for a heart realignment so that you can once again get plugged back into the true sources of power and life.  

Scriptures readings:  

Isaiah 29:13, Psalm 86:11, Mark 12:28-34

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Finding Love

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I started with hope –

Imagebecause I think hope begins things

makes us sing…

but faith and love…they have to be included too. 

ImageImage

 

they just kind of go together don’t they? 

                                          You really can’t have one 

                                                                            without

                                                                                     the

Image

 

Every one needs,

                       craves, desires, 

                                   hopes, wishes, 

                                             dreams, aspires

                                                         yearns, waits 

                                                                             for   Image

 

Songs are written about it

                             poems are rhythmically charged with it

                                               countless books bleed from the heart of love.

How do we Image?

                                                                            How do we  

em·brace       IT?
emˈbrās/
verb
 
  1. 1.
    hold (someone) closely in one’s arms, esp. as a sign of affection.
    “Aunt Sophie embraced her warmly”
     

    hug, take/hold in one’s arms, holdcuddle, clasp to one’s bosom,claspsqueezeclutch;….

     

    How do we flourish and thrive in it   Image?

    Love makes the world go around…not money, not fortune and fame…but Image

     

    It shines in the darkness, 

    paints over our mess

    helps us confess 

    blesses us…love…

     

    captivates, motivates, escalates, elevates…us.

     

    Image

     

    Love always perseveres!  Always, always, always, always…always. 

    Image  Have you found love yet? 

    Is it worth finding at all? 

                                                 Image

     

     

     

     

     

    True love, 

    God’s love…

     

    Image

     

     

     

    It begins here…ends here…

    If we find it here, 

                     and cherish it here

                                depend on it here

     

    Image

     

     

    Then from here 

    to   —————————————–> There

     

    Love will be.  

                         Real authentic, 

                                           no hidden agendas

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    Strings attached…

                                                                       No…

    From the source of Love, 

    God. 

    Almighty

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    We will  

    Image

     

     

    to the only 

    real source of 

    love.

     

    Find love today.

    He is waiting.

     

    With arms wide 

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    “Prodigal…welcome home!”

     

     

    Open.

     

     

    This.

    Is.

    Love. 

 

 

Begin with this one simple truth:
You are loved! You matter to God! You are important to Him! He loves you so very much! From this point of reference, may you find Him, and find love!

(These thoughts were written specifically for “Pastorsponderings.org” but they are free so that others might find love and hope through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen and to God be there glory!)

“The God that never lets go!”

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“I was taking the kids to school”

I was listening to music on the radio as I was dropping my children off at school this morning.  Minding my own business, when God decided to pop in for a visit.  Perhaps it had been a while.  Perhaps, if this was a time for confessions I might admit to getting caught up in work and other things…perhaps.

Isn’t it funny how God can speak to us in so many different ways?  We can go to an art gallery and suddenly a painting of flowers will strike a chord in our hearts and we would know that God had something to do with it.  Or perhaps we see God in other people as the driver just ahead of you casually pays for your toll as well…God was there.  Or even in the midst of utter despair, pain, hurt, loss, we might read something that gently and quietly reminds us that God is present with us.  He is here with you now as you read this…do you believe that?  I do.  His presence is with us always, even to the ends of the earth, even when all hell breaks loose around us, even when we are blind to His passing…He is there!

…back to the music on the radio…

I was sitting in my van and two songs back to back touch my heart in a way that I couldn’t deny His presence there.  The first was a song by Mumford and Sons called “Below my feet”.  It wasn’t so much the entire song but the refrain that captured my heart for a moment:

” Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn”

As I heard those words I pondered that last sentence; “Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn”…but I said it like a prayer to the Lord.  Lord, keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn…. I didn’t lose control of the vehicle but I could feel His presence there and I may as well have been in church.

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“I may as well have been in church!”

The very next song that came on was a song by the David Crowder Band called “You never let go”.  Its words go like this:

When clouds veil the sun and disaster comes
Oh my soul, oh my soul
When waters rise and hope takes flight
Oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul

Ever faithful, ever true
You, I know, You never let go

You never let go, You never let go
You never let go
You never let go, You never let go
You never let go

When clouds brought rain and disaster came
Oh my soul, oh my soul
When waters rose and hope had flown
Oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul

Ever faithful, ever true
You, I know, You never let go

I was in church in my van…God was very present.  He reminded me of just how important it is to not only serve Him but to always look for Him in every moment of my day.  He’s here right now wanting so desperately to fellowship and commune with you and me.  And His promise to us is that He will never let go.

-Both songs will be linked below.

Just a thought for today.

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