Dear Salvation Army, A Practical Guide To Personal Holiness

Before  you click away from this article and judge this post as “too boring” let me ask, do you want to be like Christ?  Is being like Christ important to you?   If the answer to both questions is ‘yes’ but you don’t know where to begin, let me help by offering a few suggestions today.  This is not an exhaustive list, this is merely a primer, a starter for all of us.   Dear Soldiers of our Army, we need to be a holy Army for God!  Holiness is available not only to officers or older adults, it is available to ALL of us!  Without holiness, without the Spirit’s transformation in us, we cannot be all that He has intended us to be!  Dear Salvation Army, we still are in need of Holiness today!  We still need a fresh anointing of His presence.
Do you believe Holiness is possible?

Let me clarify here as well about the topic of Holiness –
Holiness Might be IS possible for all believers in Christ.  
BUT Holiness is NOT human perfection – so let’s get that false notion out of the way right now.  Human perfection is something many people chase after in order to make themselves “better”, but does human perfection actually exist?  NO, the only perfect person to walk this earth was Christ…and even that statement at times troubles me because if Jesus were fully God and fully Man…well let’s leave that conversation for another time.   Human perfection does not equal holiness!  We are created in the image of God but because of sin we have a marred image of God within us.  Human perfection or the pursuit of such a goal can lead to arrogance, pride and even self-defeat.

Holiness is first personal before it is corporate…
1. SET ASIDE TIME IN YOUR PRAYER CLOSET DAILY closet

Understandably the prompting of such a transformation can be prompted within the corporate setting, but real transformation and change BY the Holy Spirit often takes place within our own private prayer closets.  The deeply spiritual moments, if we allot time for them, can be pivotal in our understanding of what the Holy Spirit longs to do in our lives, and the strongholds we have yet to surrender to Him.  Without our daily prayer closet moment with God, we can compartmentalize and push aside its importance within our busy lives.  The prayer closet can be an actual location that you go (usually alone) to and meditate on scriptures as well as prayer.  Some people write in journals, some people draw, some people express this moment differently.  Our prayer closet moment each day can be something that prods us, something that spurs us onward, and something that allows us clarify in a deafening world as it puts us in tune again with the Holy Spirit.

ear2.  INTENTLY ASK, BUT ACTIVELY LISTEN!
When we set aside this time within our prayer closet, we must be intentional in its purpose.  Naturally we will want to tell God everything (which He already knows) and sometimes it can become a gripe fest (trust me I’ve had my share), but instead – how much listening do we actually do in these possibly sacred times?  I’m not saying we don’t ask for help in specific areas of our lives, but we should also actively listen to the Spirit’s voice.  He can and will guide us if we can stop talking for ten seconds and listen to Him.  Be attentive to the prodding and pleading of the Holy Spirit.  He longs to transform us, and He will help us!

3.  BEGIN TO LOVE  love
This begins with our friends and colleagues, but should extend to those who are not friends but rather enemies.  Loving people despite what they do to us can transform any situation into an evangelical moment for others to see Christ in you.  Love without strings attached.  Love without stipulations.  Love because Christ first loved us, and if we ACTUALLY want to emulate Him we must put aside our preconceived notions about others, our judgments, our phoniness and simply love (which is ironic because loving our enemies is never “simple”).  Love anyway, despite our grudges, our differences, our former prejudices…love.  When we can tear down these old strong holds of resistance with love, we open up molded walls that the Holy Spirit wants to remove in our lives.  Breaking these old tired barriers allows us to be vulnerable and yet available to His Spirit’s transformation of our lives.

potLord, break me, melt me, mold me, use me!
Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.
May it be so with us!
Something more to ponder today, to God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, Are You Equipped For Battle?

“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry…” Ephesians 4:12

If you are a Soldier of this Army, you have aligned yourself with helping the lost, fighting for tangible change in our world, and it is because of the cross that we “march on”.

Read Ephesians 4:12-16
“12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
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Questions To Ponder As A Soldier of our Army and a Soldier of God today: 

-How are we equipping saints? (v.12)  
This is more than just discipling…equipping is the next step that goes further. What sort of weapons of spiritual warfare do we still need?  What are lacking?

-What is our “work of ministry”?  (v. 12)
What is it that WE as an Army do?  Once we ARE Holy people of God, what is it that we are called to do in and out of uniform?  How is that “work” going?  What are your current pitfalls?  What are you struggling with?

-How do we actively “edify the Body of Christ” (v.12b)
What does it take to edify the body of Christ?
Who is included in “the Body”?
Are there exceptions to “the Body”?
How far will we go to edify each other?
Where have we failed as an Army to edify the body?
What lessons can we learn from these experiences?

-Is “Unity” truly our goal as The Salvation Army?  (V. 13)
How do we bring this global Army together with all of its differences both culturally and socially?
How does The Holy Spirit aide us in this?
Can there be unity without His help?
Have we become stubborn and deaf to His leading for Unity in the body?

Today, this is more of spiritual inventory.
This is personal inventory.
Are you called to equip others for battle?
Are you called to edify the body of Christ?
Are you prepared for what that truly means?
Are you prepared to make sacrifices for Him?

I ponder this today, because I feel the Holy Spirit has laid this upon my heart.
I write this because I, myself battle daily with full submission to Him.
I write this because I too struggle in life and understand that I am not “there” yet.
How about you, dear Soldier?  Is there still room for Jesus? Is there still room for personal growth?
Are you fully equipped for the spiritual struggles ahead?

These are many, many questions to ponder today, and I hope that we take these to heart.
I want to be the best Soldier for Christ that I can be…I’m not there yet, I have room to grow, and I’m hoping that I’m not the only one!

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

Dear Salvation Army, Rituals And Sacramental Living

Our founders, William and Catherine Booth got away from the observances of Communion and Baptism…did they go too far?

I know that this blog has covered the sacraments in the past…I’m will not shy away from such conversations.
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The question still remains, did our founders go too far in regards to the sacraments?  I am not disagreeing with our doctrinal stances, I wish to ask the question.   I also understand that they weren’t condemning anyone who participates in communion or baptism, but has it become something of an elephant in the room?

RITUALSrituals
One could argue that anything could become ritualistic and routine within worship practice.  Thus, if our only argument against communion or baptism to be “ritualistic” in practice then perhaps we could look at certain practices we in the Army already participate in.

Can sacred moments in worship become routine and ritualistic?  Yes.  Have they become so in our services?  Yes, at times.

searchA SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE
If anything that we do within the practice of worship becomes something that it was never intended to be, should we cast it out?  Or, should we bring it back into alignment?  Whatever “it” may be?

When we have our altar calls and the Mercy Seat is open, do we make it less significant if it is over emphasized…every.single.Sunday?  I do not wish to diminish its importance in worship, but has it, at times, become our surrogate “go to” for the sacramental life?  Is the Mercy Seat and the “sacramental life” one in the same, or mutually exclusive?  Are there other representations or manifestations of the sacred that we over look and/or ignore in the process?

Please do not misunderstand me, I do not wish to downgrade the importance of the Mercy Seat, but is there a danger of IT becoming ritualistic and thereby causing its loss of significance?  Isn’t that partially why our founders moved away from the Sacraments in the first place?

“Outward Expressions of the Inward Change”
I believe that all of the external representations of holy or sacramental living are NOT as important as the inward relationship.  This should not, however, eliminate the outward practices.   It’s like a love relationship with a would be spouse or soul mate.  You want the world to know that you are in love with that person and you want that person to know it too.  So we express our love in many ways.  We put our love on display for all the world to see.  This is what the sacred should look like!  It isn’t about appearances, or a statistic for Holiness meeting.  It isn’t about anyone else but our relationship with the Lord in a corporate setting.

How are our outward expressions today, dear Soldier?  Are they bound up in appearances and/or ritual practice?  Have they lost some of its true meaning?  Are we running the risk of having these become more about practice than about significance within our hearts?

Anything can become rituals devoid of meaning and significance if we allow them to develop as such.  What kind of fruit are we producing from our spiritual walk with God?  Can we be honest with ourselves as we reevaluate our priorities, our practices, the outward expressions of our inward change?

If we are called to be set apart and to live out holiness in our lives, how can we avoid the ritual, the mundane, the loss of spiritual emphasis?

These questions are worth pondering today in our Army world.
More to come…
To God Be The Glory!

“Perspectives” Day 1 – Featuring Rhegan Stansbury “

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Day One

 

One stone at a time 

by Rhegan Stansbury 

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Taken in Turkey

 

Have you ever climbed or at least seen a mountain? Growing up in a Midwest state with wide open spaces and few hills, mountains have always been an amazing sight to me. As a teenager I got the opportunity to climb a small mountain in Colorado. A challenge, but doable, and the sight at the top was breathtaking. 

In  Matthew 21:21 Jesus says a pretty memorable thing about mountains. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea, and it will be done.”

 When you have a mountain frame of reference in your mind and you read the words of Jesus in Matthew, it is easy to say either “yeah right!” or “I must not have very much faith” -both of which are negative, unhelpful responses. 

 

Jesus uses this reference in a few places in the New Testament. In Mark 11:23 & Matthew 17:20 the sentiment is the same as the verse we just read. Jesus is responding to the disciples after they are amazed at a miracle that Jesus had just performed. Casting out a demon, and causing a fig tree to wither. Jesus seems to be quite upset at the lack of faith of the disciples. He goes as far as to say “If you had the faith of a mustard seed, you could cause a mountain to be cast into the sea.”  A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds- similar in size to a grain of sand. This does not seem like much faith required to move an entire mountain!

 

If we pay attention to the way Jesus spoke and taught, and apply it here, we can begin to see that the mountain Jesus spoke of was a metaphor for a seemingly impossible task. The disciples did not see how it was possible for them to cast out the demon from the boy or to cause a tree to wither by the command of a hungry Rabbi.

 

Sometimes we come upon an incident in our own life, a seemingly impossible task, and perhaps we remember this verse. We think to ourselves, if I just have enough faith, God will make this happen. So we take a deep breath, try to muster up all the faith we can, and for all intents and purposes doesn’t seem like a lot but certainly feels like more than a mustard seed and we wait. And  maybe, just maybe, that mountain is moved in a great miracle where God has shown himself and we have a story for the ages. It happens. God still does miracles in our lives. I have a story of my own. But if we are honest, sometimes, we end up feeling inadequate, lacking enough faith to move on. 

 

Part of the problem is we are trying in our own efforts to muster up enough faith to believe God can do it. When what we really need to do is let go. Real faith isn’t gathered up and lifted up to God—–real faith is letting go of all that we have to let God do His work. When we get ourselves out of the way, God can do miracles.

 

In a book I’m reading the author shared a story of some people she met in Haiti. As soon as I read the story I knew where she was going with it. And it gave me a new perspective on Jesus’ words about moving mountains. Here it is::::::

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(Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey, ch 9)

 

 

Sometimes in our life, we have mountains that won’t move in one fell swoop. Not because we don’t have enough faith, and not because it isn’t possible for God to make it happen. But sometimes there are mountains that need to be moved stone by stone. In acts of continued faithfulness, we move those stones.

 It takes just as much faith to continue on in a Christ honoring life, as it does to pray with all our might for one mighty thing to happen.

 David was anointed king as a young boy and yet he spent years hiding in caves until the time was right.

 Joseph was sold by his brothers, harassed, imprisoned and yet becomes great in Egypt when the time was right.

 Moses knew he was to deliver his people but he spent 40 yrs in desert as a shepherd, a far cry from a prince,  until the time was right.

 Abraham was promised children as numerous as the skies and yet he waited over 10 yrs until the time was right to see that promise fulfilled.

 These men of faith did not see their mountains moved in an instant, but stone by stone in faithfulness they followed God.

 What are your mountains? When has God moved a mountain instantly in your life and when have you felt like stone by stone in faithfulness that mountains was moving?

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Taken in Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let Go of the Baggage – “Things that hold you back.”

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) 

When we as a family prepare to go on a vacation there are usually two types of people in our family.  Type One – the under-packer who just wants to be out the door and in the van in fifteen minutes or less and worry about what we didn’t bring with us later.           Type Two – The over-packer who wants to bring everything from our home along with us on the trip and takes twice as long to get ready to leave.  Also this type two person (who will not be named but I’m married to her) has to clean the house as if we were receiving an inspection from a military grade house inspector with white gloves and all.  

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m the type one person who at times sits impatiently in the van honking the horn as the type-two person (again unnamed but I’m married to her) finishes cleaning the house until it shines and is sparkling clean.  

Truth be told, I am glad that my wife takes great care in our preparations and in the long run, as much as I hate to admit it, She is right.  

There’s another kind of baggage in life though

Sin can weigh us down. 

Make no mistake about it, the old life (before Christ) leads to death.  When we come to Jesus and we accept His gift of salvation we are made into new creations by His blood.  The old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)…but at times we still feel as if we have to keep lugging that baggage around with us.  It weighs us down, causes us difficulty and trouble and yet we still habitually burden ourselves with this unnecessary baggage.  

What is this baggage? 

1) It is the remnants of the old creation –

When Christ saved us, He did so completely yet we find it very difficult to let go of old habits and old sinful ways of living. The Holy Spirit prompts us to unclinch our white knuckled fists which are tightly holding onto these things that we needn’t any more to grasp. In times of trial and stress, these old remnants also rear their ugly heads to cause us strife and further temptation as well.  When we lose our focus on the forward prize of Holiness, which is the image of Christ alive in us, we face the old self again.  When this happens a flood of the old tendencies pours in and once again we find ourselves taking two or three steps backwards in our progress of Holiness. This baggage has been there all along festering and molding in a cold dark corner of our hearts and we’ve been reluctant, even rebellious in our lack of spiritual attempts to deal with it, so, instead we ignore it.    The Holy Spirit knows that this baggage does not belong in our new creation.  He is spurring us, even painfully at times, to let go of it.  Why do we still clutch it ever so tightly?  What good can ever come from its hold on us?  This baggage stands blatantly in our path of real, tangible Spiritual growth and yet we allow it to stunt us.  

Prayer – Dear Lord, allow me to see this baggage in my life today.  Show me that which still blocks my steps to full surrender.  Reveal to me the places that I have yet to let go of.  I do not want these burdens of the old creation to hinder my forward progress of reflecting You.  -Amen.

2) The Baggage can also be our guilt, shame and self-worth.

The old life also has a way of convincing us that we are not good enough to be like Christ.  It will try and convince us that we will never be good enough or smart enough to receive such a reward from God.  This has nothing to do with pride, in fact just the opposite.  When Christ redeems us, the wretched sinner, He does so completely.  When we commit our hearts to Him, He washes us clean.  This doesn’t mean that we won’t face temptation again or that we can not fall, but it does mean that His blood sacrifice can and will cover up our sinful old creations and wash them away.  Our part, within this free will, however, is that we must confront our old harmful choices that we have made.  This is the consequences of sin, we have to face it.  Sometimes in facing it we find ourselves so wrecked by it that we begin to doubt if Christ could truly love us because we have done so much wrong.  This remnant of the old baggage clings to us and tries to convince us of the lie that we are not worth His time and that, perhaps, we were never salvageable through His gift of salvation.  Don’t buy the life.  This isn’t about pride, but it’s about truth.  You matter to God!  He loves YOU!  He wants to remind you that you are His precious child and that you are a son or daughter of the Most High!  Don’t cling to this old baggage, which is a lie.  Let go of it, and embrace this truth of His saving grace – You are His and He would do it all over again if you had been the only human alive!  When you let go of this old baggage and recognize how much it has weighed you down you will begin to see how free you will feel.  

Let go, and find this burden lifted from you!  

Prayer – Dear Lord, remind me again of how much you love me.  Remind me when I struggle with my identity in You that I am worthy because of Your love.  Help to me see myself as You see me, and as I do help me to let go of my grip on this baggage of self-worth. Thank you for your love and for your hand upon my life, lift me up out of this pit of self-degradation and give me a passion to serve and love you with ever fiber of my being.  -Amen.

Get On With It!

 Letting go of the baggage that hinder us is only the first step, now we have to press on.  Jesus is our living example, and this world still needs His example lived out in Holy Christ-following people.  Shine so that others might see Him.  Live as the Holy Spirit leads you to live.  Get up and get on with this new creation…oh and leave your baggage behind!  

 

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?

God specializes in things thought impossible

And He can do what no other power can do.

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“Perspectives” Day 1 featuring Mark Czanderna (Captain) “The Wells of Salvation”

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“The Wells of Salvation”

 

(Isaiah 12:3)

Abraham sent servant Eliezer

To find a wife

For his son

Whose name was Isaac

Eliezer left home

Came to a well

Met a future wife

Her name was Rebecah

She was sister to Laban

She was God’s chosen

For Isaac

By a well

Isaac’s wife was found

Jacob left home

Came to a well

Met a future wife

Her name was Rachel

She was daughter to Laban

She was God’s chosen

For Jacob

By a well

Jacob’s wife was found

Jesus left Judea

Came to a well

Met a woman

Her name was Samaritan

She was repulsive to Jews

She was God’s chosen

To believe in Jesus

By a well

Jesus’ follower was found

Rebecca was the mother

Of Jacob and Esau

Rachel was the mother

Of Joseph and Benjamin

The Samaritan woman

Won many sons to Christ

With joy you will draw water

From the wells of salvation

Featuring – Harry Read (Commissioner R) “An Inward Realm” “Perspectives” Day 6

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AN INWARD REALM

There is an inward realm transcending dreams,
Below the surface of my conscious thought,
Where God can dwell, composing mighty themes
Surpassing far those themes which I have wrought.

If I but cease to struggle and to strain
And let him move the bars from round my cell,
And burst the fetters which my soul enchain
And let his touch my apprehensions quell

Then will I know the joy transcending speech,
The holiness which only Christ can give,
The faith which always seemed far past my reach:
Love’s mystery, Christ’s gift to make me live.

Lord, play your mighty music in my soul
And set me free to live in your control.

2 Corinthians 4: 14 –18
We are more mystical and practical than we imagine.

21.10.13

 

Use with permission from Commissioner Harry Read

A Saint About To Fall

A saint about to fall,
The stained flats of heaven hit and razed
To the kissed kite hems of his shawl,
On the last street wave praised
The unwinding, song by rock,
Of the woven wall
Of his father’s house in the sands,
The vanishing of the musical ship-work and the chucked bells,
The wound-down cough of the blood-counting clock
Behind a face of hands,
On the angelic etna of the last whirring featherlands,
Wind-heeled foot in the hole of a fireball,
Hymned his shrivelling flock,
On the last rick’s tip by spilled wine-wells
Sang heaven hungry and the quick
Cut Christbread spitting vinegar and all
The mazes of his praise and envious tongue were worked in flames and shells.

Glory cracked like a flea.
The sun-leaved holy candlewoods
Drivelled down to one singeing tree
With a stub of black buds,
The sweet, fish-gilled boats bringing blood
Lurched through a scuttled sea
With a hold of leeches and straws,
Heaven fell with his fall and one crocked bell beat the left air.
O wake in me in my house in the mud
Of the crotch of the squawking shores,
Flicked from the carbolic city puzzle in a bed of sores
The scudding base of the familiar sky,
The lofty roots of the clouds.
From an odd room in a split house stare,
Milk in your mouth, at the sour floods
That bury the sweet street slowly, see
The skull of the earth is barbed with a war of burning brains and hair.

Strike in the time-bomb town,
Raise the live rafters of the eardrum,
Throw your fear a parcel of stone
Through the dark asylum,
Lapped among herods wail
As their blade marches in
That the eyes are already murdered,
The stocked heart is forced, and agony has another mouth to feed.
O wake to see, after a noble fall,
The old mud hatch again, the horrid
Woe drip from the dishrag hands and the pressed sponge of the forehead,
The breath draw back like a bolt through white oil
And a stranger enter like iron.
Cry joy that hits witchlike midwife second
Bullies into rough seas you so gentle
And makes with a flick of the thumb and sun
A thundering bullring of your silent and girl-circled island. 

Dylan Thomas

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