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!  

Heaven is for real…and so is pain and suffering.

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Yesterday I blogged a bit about not living completely in the Christian-ecosystem that sometimes is known as the “Bubble”.  

Today…

I would like to explore what people are saying about Heaven as well as pain (even if the pain isn’t even spoken about).  

What are people saying about life after death?  

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As a Christian living in this world I recognize that to me this life is a gift…but that doesn’t always mean there isn’t pain and difficulties along the way.  Life is not just about the destination but also about the journey.  

QUESTIONS ABOUT SUFFERING 

Sometimes the journey is painful.

Why do some people endure more pain than others?  
Why is there suffering in this world? 

I understand that suffering and pain is a part of our fallen world but to me that answer sometimes just isn’t good enough…I want more.  I yearn to get to the bottom of this whole pain thing.  Isn’t that why some doctors feel called to their practice in the first place?  They want to help ease the pain in this life?  Isn’t there relief in sight?  Sometimes I look around me and am staggered by friends who have lost parents and other loved ones through the blight of cancer and other terminal diseases.  

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It hurts my heart to see servants of God, who deeply love God and serve Him and yet they are afflicted with these cancers that eat away and ravage the body.  I often ask “Why God?”  

When I think of the verse that Jesus said (even within the context of loving your enemies) – “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” I recognize that God is fair and just in this world.  I also recognize that the fallen nature of this world is the ultimate cancer that ravages our world.  The rains can, and some times do, include times of emotional and physical drought for the sinner and the saint.  The rains can include times of healing and times of sickness…and even death.  

Although I know this to be true, can I be honest with you?  It doesn’t do much to ease my hurt when I see friends hurting.  I hurt right along with them as they suffer…but as a Christian I do know that there is ultimate healing and that death is not the end.  

What other people are saying…

 

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Last night I asked friends of mine a question.  The question was -” who else do you long to see in heaven besides Jesus?
Their answers ranged from grand parents, spouses, relatives and friends and even children that some had lost.
Even though we have this hope and assurance of Eternity with Christ we still endure hardships and sufferings.  Life is not easy and we still carry these wounds of those loved ones we have lost along with us.  Sometimes their memories comfort us while other times they help us to endure through rough patches we ourselves are going through.  

BUT HEAVEN IS FOR REAL…RIGHT NOW!:

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Here’s a revelation, perhaps you already know this – We don’t have to wait for heaven to get here to experience God’s Kingdom now! 
 Luke 17:20b-21 (NIV) Jesus said, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God  is in your midst [or,within you].”

Jesus experienced suffering in His very human life.  He was hurt by betrayal, but abandonment and He even suffered the worst of deaths.  I think it is safe to say that Jesus knows a little bit about human suffering and what we go through still today.  Despite the fact that suffering exists here’s a source of hope for you and for me:  The Kingdom of God is here and now!  Jesus may have been implying the He was the Kingdom in physical form and though He isn’t physically here His Presence in the form the Holy Spirit is.  We are not alone in this world…we never were.  God’s Kingdom is among us still.  Eternity is around us…we just haven’t recognized it yet. 

It is true that when we die we will see Eternity in all of its glory, but we do not need to wait for that day to experience God’s presence every day!  His presence is the essence of eternity and despite the sufferings of these human forms and the fallen world we live in, He can provide us the victory through it all!  This may be difficult to swallow for some of us…I still struggle with it myself, but I do believe despite pain and suffering God is very present with us right here and right now!  

Heaven is for real, so is pain and suffering, BUT the Almighty is also very, very real as well!  

-Just a thought.  

 

The Patron Saint of Last Ditch Efforts

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She fought her way through the throngs of people.  Every inch was a battle, but her objective was in sight.  “If only I can reach him”, she thought, “maybe I can be healed.”  Still more people seemed to teem from neighboring dwellings as curiosity got the better of them and they had to see what this crowd was doing.  As Jesus continued to walk, so the crowd of people following Him grew as well, but she was determined to reach Him.  Finally after pushing past another person, she found herself directly behind him.  This was it.  This was her moment.  If she didn’t do it now her chance would be gone and so would the possibility of being healed.  She had heard of his miracles, that he could heal.  The woman had visited numerous “healers” yet none of them could help her.  She had all but given up any hope of complete restoration of her health, until she heard Jesus was coming.  Now, directly behind the healer, she reached out to touch him.  In her mind she had already believed that if he could heal her all she would have to do is touch him.  So with arms extended and fingertips stretching outward, she touches him.  What happens next not only confirms her belief, but ignites hope again within her heart and mind.  A power surge unlike any other is felt throughout her body.  What began as a simple touch of her fingertips sends a pulse of energy to her elbow, her shoulder, her hips, her knees and even her feet.  

Wide-eye and surprised Jesus suddenly stopped walking and turned to the crowd.  “Who touched my clothes?”  He asked.  Some of the crowd mumbled things like “we all touched you”, “I just bumped into you”, and “perhaps it was me”…but that wasn’t what Jesus meant.  He had felt power leave His body, and He looked for the one who had intentionally touched Him.  The woman who had suddenly been healed by the simple touch of his clothing knew instantly that Jesus was looking for her.  In just mere seconds she had a decision to make, she could simply disappear back into the crowd and go home, or she could admit to Jesus that it had been she who had touched Him.  She didn’t hesitate, but came forward and fell at His feet.  Perhaps she was afraid He would be angry that she hadn’t asked Him to heal her.  Perhaps she thought He might take His healing from her.  But she knelt anyway and admitted to Jesus that she had touched him in the hopes of being healed.  

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Jesus’ response to her wasn’t anger or disappointment.  He looked down upon her with love and compassion and said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  God in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:34)  Her last ditch effort to find healing had paid off.  She had been desperate and had suffered greatly over the years from this malady, and now she was completely healed and free from disease and suffering.  

Isn’t that what Jesus does for all of us?  We suffer from so many issues in this life.  Some suffer from actual physical ailments and diseases, while others suffer from spiritual diseases that pillages and ravages the heart and mind.  Yet Jesus comes to all, and though perhaps we have tried everything else without success, Jesus is there before us.  Perhaps it’s time.  Perhaps it’s your last ditch effort to find healing that no one else can provide you with.  If only you would reach out and touch Him and find that He has the power to save ultimately and completely!  

This is the kind of “last ditch effort” that has an eternal outcome.  Belief isn’t easy, yet this woman so long ago, who was clinging to her last hope reached out to a Savior who healed permanently.  Will you reach out to Him today?  Are you willing to place your faith in His mighty power?  He wants us to all believe in Him.  He loves us so deeply and stands ready to heal and save.  

My Life = Christ’s Broken Bread

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Think of it.  A life completely devoted to the cause of Christ.  Not a divided life, where half is devoted to Christ and half is devoted to self…but completely and utterly surrendered to the cause of Christ.  

For some, dare I say most,  being Christ’s broken bread sounds great on paper.  It even sounds romantic to some degree,  but truly living a broken life before God and man is an extremely daunting task indeed.  

Galatians 2:20 the Apostle Paul tells us; “I have been Crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and have himself for me.”  

There is a very disturbing image for us here.  The suffering and death of Christ for the world becomes the very image we too take on as we become Christ’s broken bread to the world around us.  It transforms us into what Christ said would happen to His disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26) 

Our borrowed time, our pooled financial resources, our hobbies and precious treasures…they mean nothing if they are not subjected to the filter of Christ on the cross.  Everything will eventually pass away.  Everything will eventually disappear from us.  But one thing will remain: God’s love for us, His people.  

In return, our duty, our purpose for living ought to transform our thoughts, our passions, our perceptions of the stuff we own…all of it in the spectrum of grace and redemption.  

Why do we need to become Christ’s broken bread? 

Because there are countless souls in our world who need salvation!  There are many lives who are still lost in the darkness of sin and certain death!  Without willing servants of Christ giving their all in His services, they will perish!  Some might utter the excuses like “the Holy Spirit can save them”, and rightly so but Christ has sent US to be His ambassadors into this world.  The Holy Spirit is with us in this venture!  Without the willing hands and feet of Christ, who have been broken and humbles before His love and grace, the great commission cannot be fulfilled.  

We are called people.  Set apart for His holy purpose in this world wrought with sin!  People in our own neighborhoods are lost and in need of anyone who is willing to love them and show them this amazing Christ whom we serve!  There are countless souls caught up in addictions of all kinds who are in need of the extension of grace that Christ has given to us.  

Who will be Christ’s broken bread to them?  Will you?  Will I? This isn’t some part-time calling.  It’s full-time within our occupations and our passions!  We are called to be His broken bread to the world, and that starts with our family’s, neighbors, friends and even enemies.  It will not be easy!  There will be days in which we will utterly fail along the way.  Other days when we will be scorned and mocked.  Yet this humbled state of servants of Christ brings upon our lives such a richness of mercy, grace and love!  

-Just a thought.

“My life must be Christ’s broken bread,

My love his outpoured wine,

A cup o’erfilled, a table spread

beneath his name and sign,

that other souls, refreshed and fed,

may share his life through mine.

 (Albert Orsborn SASB 512)  

 

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