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!

Day 27 (Friday) -“Coffee Stains…”

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”  Matthew 23:25-26

Jesus had some harsh words for the religious leaders of his day…but first let me share with you a story.  I love coffee…a lot!  I also have my favorite cups that I like to use every day. cup It’s the daily routine.  Every morning I wake up my children and get them ready for school.  Then I shuffle to the kitchen and brew myself a nice hot cup of coffee.  Most days my cup is clean but then there are days when my favorite cup was left in the car or in the sink…and it’s dirty.  There is a dilemma that happens, do I wash it or just rinse it out.  If I rinse it out I will know that the inside wasn’t clean…and I will be thinking about how it will affect the taste of my coffee as well as how it could affect my health to ingest bacteria from a dirty cup.  I could drink from it, but I won’t.

I would imagine that you would do the same – wash the cup.
If you’re anything like me, you care about your health and you want to ensure you take care of yourself…and cleaning is one way to help prevent illness and all-round health issues.

createJesus addressed a very real spiritual health issue with these religious leaders.
He was harsh, but straight with them.  They looked the part, but on the inside they were unclean.  Instead of dealing with their spiritual dirt, they pretended everything was okay.  They pretended to have it all together, but in their personal lives it was all falling apart.  Have you been there?  Have you at times pretended everything was okay, but deep inside you knew that there was dirt that needed removing?  That’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit!  He longs to cleanse us completely.  Without this continual cleansing – a full surrender is impossible.  We cannot run from this heart issue.  We have to confront the dirt.  Without confronting it, we will have this barrier between us and God.  The cleansing which comes from getting rid of the dirt is freeing as well!  Jesus went on to call these Pharisees “white washed tombs” – they looked good on the outside but on the inside they were dead inside.  This is a scary commentary by Jesus.  I hope and pray none of us receives this kind of appraisal of our spiritual lives.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be dead inside.  I don’t want to pretend everything is “holy” on the outside but inside it is anything but holy.

Are you prepared to clean the inside of your cup?
Are there areas that still need cleansing in your life today?
It can be a barrier and without that cleansing a detriment to our faith journey.
So let’s confess to the Lord today and allow Him access (perhaps once again) to our hearts and hidden spaces of our lives that no one else sees.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, cleanse me from the inside out.  I want to be yours completely.  Show me the places that require your cleansing.  Cleanse my mind from all malice and unhealthy thought.  Wash me clean and make me whiter than snow so that I can move past any barriers that keep me from full surrender.  Lead me today Lord and show me your glory!  In Your name I pray all of these things.  Amen.

img_2411-2

Dear Salvation Army, Beware of Mines!

soldier

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Danger minesThis is a difficult pondering today.
Dear Soldier, have we purified our hearts AND our lives?
Are we living as we should?
OR
Are there still “stones” left to be overturned?
Are there still those “private” sins that we still indulge in?
I don’t mean to meddle today, but I feel compelled to write on this sensitive topic.
Sexual images are literally EVERYWHERE!
Temptation abounds in many places, not only on the internet but in our every day lives.
Our body, in our out of uniform, is the very temple of God.
How is your temple?
How are you doing with the every day temptations of life?

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are no longer susceptible from the lures of temptation.
Don’t be foolish!!
When we make that conscious decision to act on temptation, let us call it for what it is – SIN.
Be careful, dear Soldier.
Beware of the mines!
Be alert and awake!
You are called by God.
When you became a Soldier of this Salvation Army, you signed the articles of war…and if you became an Officer you signed a covenant with God.  We are to be set apart for Him…in every way!  How is your testimony today?

This is NOT easy!
Soldiership and Officership is NOT easy.
Living for Christ is NOT easy.

Questions: 
Do you sometimes stumble?
Do you sometimes give into temptation (no matter what “it” is)?
Have you asked for forgiveness?
Have you prayed about specific situations and areas of temptation in your life?
mines2
You are never alone!
God is with you!
He will sustain you.
He is willing to come to our aid!

If we are to be a stronger Army…
If we are to be an Army on fire for God…
If we truly desire to change the world around us for Him…
Then 
-we ought to desire His holiness in our lives!
-we ought to long to take hold of this new life for all it’s worth!
-we ought to desire to be like Christ in every way!

Dear Salvation Army, beware of the mines!
Dear Soldier of this Army, beware of the mines!
For they will devastate us if we entertain its lures.
They will ravage us and leave us broken and defeated.
Beware and tread carefully…steer clear of those places and areas of greatest vulnerability.
Allow His Holy Spirit to guide you! mines1

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

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

Dear Salvation Army, Do We Shoot Our Wounded?

blood and fire

We are an Army of Salvation.
An Army of Holiness.
An Army of Hope.
An Army of Compassion.

But do we shoot our wounded?
Those who have worked on the front lines…
Those who have fallen…
Those who have broken ranks…sometimes..

This is probably an uncomfortable topic.  This is most likely similar to picking a scab…but I think we should.

Years ago, and in some places still today farmers will treat the wounded horse if they can.  Many will send for veterinarians.  Most will find means to help the wounded animal…but every now and then there are just some wounds that won’t heal.  Every now and then a break in the horse’s leg is irreparable.   Sometimes this is done out of compassion.  Other times because the animal is now more of a liability than an asset it is shot and killed.  There are far better solutions.  I am not a hippologist or an equestrian by any means, but it seems to me that others have found ways to save these animals.  Some have sent these wounded horses “out to pasture” to become therapy horses or they are donated to petting zoos or camps.  Most of the time there is a way to save these animals besides shooting the wounded.

Dear Salvation Army, are we seeking out ways to save the wounded, the weary, the broken, the ones in need of reconciliation and spiritual saving?  Or…are we shooting the wounded?

Can an Officer or Local Officer Admit To Sin & Temptation?

sin
It almost seems like a “hush, hush” type of topic.  “Well we don’t talk about sin in the corps and in our leadership”, one might utter under their breath grimacing as they do.  “We can’t admit we too struggle with this sin. We can’t let anyone know.”  Why is this such a touchy subject?  Why can’t we all admit that we are still sinners saved by grace?  I must be careful here because I do not wish to imply that we just go on sinning, but we can be redeemed and given the power to overcome…but why are we hesitant, why do we pretend and hide these things from each other?  Are we not to keep each other accountable?  Are we not to be vulnerable before each, those in whom we can trust?  Ah, I think this is the crux of the situation…because there are still many within our Army that shoot the wounded.

Changing Our Focus
All too often we focus so much on the mission and saving the lost that we neglect the solider.  I do not intend this to mean that we cater and prop up and pamper, but when all of our energies are focused outwardly into the world we possibly run the risk of weakening our ranks.  There must be edification, concentration and preparation of spiritual care given to our soldiery or our Army.  We cannot allow temptation to take hold where we are able to prevent such a decay to occur in the first place.  There must be pastoral care given to both Officer and Soldier. It must be intentional.  It must be emphasized.   It is brother helping brother, sister helping sister as we fight shoulder to shoulder.  When one of our brothers or sisters slips and falls we must help to pick them up, we must help to carry them not shoot them!  We must lovingly restore them!  (Galatians 6:1)

Is There A Sin That Is “Shootable”?

fire4
Yes there ought to be consequences to sin.  Immoral behavior, which includes slander, and gluttony (Thank you General Cox), must be dealt with and addressed.  In so doing, can we still restore a dear soldier or officer within our ranks?  In the past such situations were dealt with harshly and people were turned out of our army with nothing.  I am thankful in some circles who have seen the error of this response and have begun to deal justly but with compassion and grace.

What happens to one who is “tossed out” or thrown out?  Is there some measure of a restoration plan in place or are the Army’s hands washed and done with such an individual?  Is there any sin that is shootable?

Grace & Compassion

hand
Grace, which Christ bestowed upon us has to be evident in how we deal with others.  Grace and compassion is beyond our human grasp and yet the Holy Spirit can and will provide this to us when we love instead of shoot those who are wounded.  Do you remember the parable of the unmerciful servant?  He was forgiven by the master a sizable debt and then he goes and attempts to viciously extract the debts that were owed to him.  When the master found out that unmerciful servant was punished.  I do not want to be an unmerciful soldier and officer of this army.  We cannot operate solely within a mind set of stiffness, legalities and policies and procedures…where does grace and compassion fit into this?

Punish? Yes.
Shoot?  I sure hope not.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
(Romans 3:23-24)

Dear Salvation Army, we are so outspoken about the need for more soldiers and officers, could it be that impart we have already shot some of our wounded who could have facilitated some of our need?  We do need more able bodies on the front lines, but do not forget about those who are wounded and are in need of loving restoration when this is possible.  God’s grace still outshines the grace that is evident in our Army today.

-Just something more for our Army world to ponder today.

Lord, you grace is enough!
Come Lord Jesus fall afresh on us again!

Beware of the Relapse

Image

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

Image

 

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 

Image

 

to the 
trappings

of

Image

 

 

 

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

 

Image

Stand Firm…
                                                                                               Meditate
                                                                                                      on

Image

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

Image

 

 

 

“Reflecting Jesus” (available on itunes – podcast/brainerdcorps)

Sermon Podcast – Check it out!

 

John 4:7-26 (NIV)
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”
8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.
18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

 

“Choose God”

1 Samuel 8:6-9 (NIV)
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”

Image

God’s heart must have ached in hearing the pleas of His people.  They demanded a king.  They looked around at the other nations and coveted what they had.  God had provided them food and protection in a barren land during the exodus, and He had provided them lands to call their own, but still they strayed from Him.  Still they wanted more.  Enemies were vanquished before His people, provisions were met and yet they took it all for granted.  

When they cried out for a king in the setting sun of Samuel’s leadership, God reminded him that it was aimed at the Almighty.  “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”  (1 Samuel 8:7)  Imagine for a moment giving up the One who was their fortress of protection.  Imagine saying to God, your wealth, though it outnumbers the stars in the sky, is not enough for me…we want something else.  God had poured out His love upon His people and they had rejected it again and again.  

If there was ever a governmental system in this world that could stand the test of time it was and still is God’s model.  No other form of government has ever before or ever will prove more pure and selfless than His.  No other form of democracy will ever remain without being tainted by man’s selfish ambitions for power, prestige and wealth.  Yet His people chose a lower form of government because other nation’s systems looked more appealing.  The lure of other gods and openly degenerate moralistic standards appealed to the people of God.  How awful Samuel, God’s prophet must have felt.  How hurt and heartsick with grief Samuel must have been.  

Have you ever felt the sting of rejection?  I have a time or two.  It is an emotion that without a doubt begs never to be repeated in the human heart.  Though this went much deeper than a single person being rejected, God was rejected by the entirety of His chosen people!  They turned their backs on Him.  They decided that He couldn’t support their needs any longer and so a king would better suit their pleasures.  

I imagine through pain, disdain and hurt God tells Samuel to give the people what they want.  But He also warns Samuel to tell them what the results will be of their betrayal and choice.   “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” (1 Samuel 8:9) The idea of a king was far more appealing to the people of God than actually considering the consequences of their choice.  The king would reign over them, not like a loving, understanding and all knowing God, but like a man driven by selfish intentions and sin this would be how they would be ruled over.  

God allowed them to choose.  We are a created with this free-will within us.  We are not compelled or forced to love and serve God.  Yet when we choose to reject Him and His hand upon our lives we soon find that in our folly the devastating consequences of life without Him!  I am not advocating for one form of government over another today, nor am I renouncing any leadership within our government (Scripture clearly says: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17))  But what I am saying is this; above everything choose Him.  Don’t turn from the One who created us and has preserved our lives.  Choose God.  Serve Him, love Him and make Him Lord of your life above and before all else.  

-Just a thought for today.

 

In need of a Savior

Image

In just a few days another installment of Marvel’s Thor will hit theaters (Thor 2 The Dark World) .  It will undoubtedly be #1 at the box office over the weekend.  This time Thor returns to Earth to help save mankind from an evil force not of this earth.  It will be an action packed movie with lots of special effects, some romance and the underlined theme that the World is in need of a savior.  I find it interesting that Thor is the son of a god (Odin).   Thor comes to Earth to save mankind from evil and death.  To me there is a deep underlining parallel here to Christ.

Last year the Avengers was a world wide success and financial money maker.  The entire Marvel franchise is well over a Billion dollar industry.  Why has their movies received such international success and acclaim?  Naturally people of all ages enjoy a good action film, but beyond that I believe there is this underlining innate longing to be saved and to have find a savior from life’s worries, fears and heartaches.  Every person on earth can most likely relate to such a longing.  There is something remarkably missing in our hearts that cannot be rectified from the inside alone.  We need an external force to save us.

Jesus came to this earth seeking to save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Why did He come?  Because we could not, in our own power and strength, save ourselves from the trappings of sin and death.  We needed an external force to grasp us by the hand and pull us to safety.  Since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we have lived with sin in our world.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and we are in dire need of one who can save us from certain death.  This is why, I believe, we respond so passionately to superhero movies like Thor(2) and others before it. We crave saving.  We long for deliverance.  We look around us in our world and we see evil and hatred, sickness and death, and we pray for those life ending threats to end.   We turn on the news and witness another violent shooting in a mall or another systematic genocide taking place on this planet and we wish such stories would end.  We long for a savior to come and save us!

This life isn’t easy, sin is still very present and real, hatred and sickness at times still prevails; and yet there is hope.  The hope of the world entered earth some two thousand years ago and with Him, brought deliverance, salvation and the promise of new life for all who sought after Him.  God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ still says to us today “I am the way the truth and the LIFE, no one comes to the Father except through me .” (John 14:6)

We are all in need of a Savior.  Though we enjoy a good flick about Superheroes now and then, we can recognize that we have already been saved and that new life can start today with our love and devotion towards God and His image reflected towards those around us.

-Just a thought for today.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑