Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How to Thrive as a Single Officer/Minister Guest Post by Captain Linda McCormick

The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them.

I have been an officer for almost 8 years now. It is a job I absolutely love! This life as a single officer comes with a plethora of challenges, but in those 8 years, I have found some things that help keep me sane, enthusiastic, and filled with joy. These practices help me to thrive when I am in the challenges every day ministry.

1. Your happiness and joy MUST come from a strong relationship with God! He MUST be in the middle of your singleness.

2. I think as a single officer you need strong connections outside the Army world. It is not healthy to only have all your friends in the Salvation Army. You need people you can trust outside this bubble that you can share your frustrations with and your joys with. You also need to find people INSIDE the Army you can trust to share your appointment frustrations and joys with that has no power to affect the status of your appointment.

3. You need to find a Bible study outside what you provide for your people in order for you to grow and be filled, especially when you are pouring out day in and day out.

4. Make time for yourself. Whether it is reading, watching a movie at the theatre or going for a walk. These things help break the constant barrage of information and people you are dealing with.

5. Get a pet (if you like animals). Animals are great because you can come home to them at night, and love them. We need the unconditionally love of animals sometimes, and it will make your heart lighter at the end of the day.

6. Try to keep your house clean, this alleviates a lot of stress is you can walk into a clean and organized home.

7. Finally and MOST importantly, remember why you do this very difficult job! Re-read your covenant often for it is God you serve, not man. 

When a single officer has to be at every 1 and 2 star event and sometimes regional events it is extremely stressful and you can get caught up in the weight of everyone always pulling at your time. Read the covenant, remember WHO called you and why. He is the one who fills you with joy and purpose.

There is more I could say, but I will close with this: You have been called by Him. He will provide a spouse if that is in HIS plans, but be content in your singleness, and do the best you can in your appointment and find joy in your singleness. Because if you don't, there is only trouble, frustration, and disappointment in the future. Rely on Him and He will be faithful.

Blessings from a fellow single officer who is thriving.

Captain Linda McCormick

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Tame Your Tongue: Repenting of Gossip Guest Post by Lieutenant Crystal Sherack

The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

The topic of gossip has been on my mind for quite some time. As an introvert, I spend a lot of time observing people and I’ve been observing a lot of gossip, especially masked as prayer requests.  People are quick to share information without knowing if it is even true. And in some cases, gossip and rumors ruin lives and relationships. I can’t think of a single example of a time that gossip or rumors have been helpful to anyone.  We’re constantly surrounded by it and we accept it.

    How gossip happens
Proverbs 10:18-19 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

The more we talk, the greater probability we have of saying something that is not true or is incorrect. The desire for continuous conversation often leads to exaggeration, breaking confidences, and associated sins (MacDonald, 1995, p 815).

Proverbs 11:12-13 A man who lacks judgement derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

A man without wisdom belittles those around them and insults God. But a man of wisdom doesn’t say anything if he can’t praise or edify the other person. Some take malicious delight in spreading scandal, informing about others, and breaking confidences. They don’t hold anything back and they tell everything they now. A faithful friend knows how to keep confidences and refrains from talking (MacDonald, 1995, p 817). Gossip is one of those sneaky sins. We’re often apart of it without realizing it. In church or small groups we call it prayer requests. Don’t misunderstand, it is important to pray on behalf of others, but we don’t need to share all of the details with everyone that we know.  Both passages from Proverbs talk about what happens when we talk without having wisdom. When we lack wisdom, we might have the desire to talk continuously. And generally, when we talk non-stop it leaves room for exaggeration, betraying the trust of others, gossip, and slander. When we talk without wisdom, we also belittle those around us, which then insults God. Since we are all made in the image of God, if we cut down others, we are insulting God at the same time.
But the passages also let us know that those who have wisdom, choose not to say anything if they can’t praise or uplift people. It’s like that saying that they used to teach in elementary school, “if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all.”
James 3:5-10 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

     What Gossip Does
The tongues is a relatively small part of our body but it is a powerful one. The tongue can set the heart aflame with fury, patriotism, courage, love, and hate; it can also inflict damage for generations (McCartney, 2009, p 184-185). In James 3, we see the tongue compared to a fire and can easily destroy a forest. The tongue, when not tamed, can destroy the entire body; it pollutes personal life and other activities as well. I think fire is an appropriate illustration to use to describe what the human tongue can do.
Fire starts small and grows but it also creates heat. Words said out of anger or malice can destroy a home, a Sunday School class, and a Church. Jesus Himself faced gossip. He was called a glutton and a drunk (Matthew 11:19). When he performed miracles, He was accused of being in league with Satan (Matthew 12:24).
Because of the Fall of Man, we have lost control over our tongue. Our human nature can’t control it and only God can bring it under control.
When gossip isn’t stopped right away, it acts like a forest fire. Fire defiles. Fire burns. Fire hurts. Just like our words. Gossip, just like fire, spreads when we add more fuel to it (Wiersbe, 2008, p 359). Like fire, gossip damages and destroys. It destroys trust, relationships, and in some horrific cases, it can destroy businesses and churches.
The tongue is difficult to control by ourselves. We need the power of God that lives in us through the Holy Spirit to tame it. When we claim to be followers of Jesus, we should be transformed by the Spirit and that transformation should manifest wholeness and purity of heart. If we bless the Lord with our tongue in one moment but tear someone down in the next, we are need in of spiritual renewal.
     Remedy to Stop Gossip
There are two parts to the remedy of gossip. 1) the gossipers and 2) the listener of gossip.
1   The Gossipers
a.     Pray daily that the Lord would keep you from gossip.
b.     If you have an issue with someone, go to them directly. Don’t talk about them to another person, that doesn’t solve the problem.
-        Matthew 18:15 If your sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
-        Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, but if he repents, forgive him.
c.     Try to see Christ in others instead of magnifying their flaws.
d.     Ask yourself is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
e.     Most importantly, ask God to forgive you for gossiping.

Pray this passage daily if you find that you struggle with gossiping:
Psalm 141:3-4 – Set a guard over my mouth, o Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies.

    The Receivers of Gossip
     If someone comes to you and says “I need to talk to you.” Ask them, “about someone or something.” If they want to talk about someone, politely ask them if they spoke to them yet. If they haven’t, they need to do so. Politely end the conversation with that.
b. Like a fire, we need to stop gossip before it gets out of control. 
- If you find yourself in a conversation that suddenly turns into gossip, you need to ask them if what they are saying is even true.
- Show them what the Bible says about gossip and its destructive power.
- Encourage them to go to the other person in humility to apologize for sharing information about them.
c. Pray that the Lord would keep them from gossip and that He’d guard their mouths when they are faced with the temptation to do so. 

Ephesians 5:1-4,8-11 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurty or greed must not even be named among you, as in proper among the saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving thanks…for you were formerly darkness, but you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of the darkness, but instead even, expose them.

It should bother us that gossip is so readily accepted in the world around us. This is not an easy topic to talk about in the church. However, it is one that we need to talk about. If we want a healthy church, we need to address issues that keep us unhealthy. Gossip is in the world around us. It’s in our friend groups. It’s on nearly every magazine cover in the checkout lines at the grocery store. Gossiping, just like any other sin, separates us from God. It’s difficult to proclaim the gospel and share God’s love with someone when you spent several minutes tearing down another person. God is not honored when we tear each other down.
We might participate in gossip because we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. But we aren’t helping them. We’re only encouraging their continued separation from God. If you want to help your friend, encourage them to go that person and discuss what’s wrong or even to apologize to them for sharing information about them. It isn’t easy to discipline people we are close to or correct them. But it’s what we are called to do as followers of Christ.
Maybe you are really good at avoiding gossip and if that is the case, don’t be afraid to share that wisdom with others. Gossip is a little different than other sins, it’s sneaky. And we have to be on guard. Pray to God and read His world daily.

Citations and References

All Scripture references are from the New International Version.
MacDonald, W. (1996). Believer’s bible commentary. Thomas Neslon: Nashville.
McCartney, D. G. (2009). James. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids.
Wiersbe, W.W. (1989). The bible exposition commentary: new testament volume 2. David C Cook: Colorado Springs.  

Bio: Crystal Sherack has been an Officer in The Salvation Army since 2014. She currently serves in the Western Division in Rapid City, SD.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

God Commands You: Fear Not! Be Courageous!

Isaiah 41:10 ESV Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 John 4:18 ESV There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Psalm 34:4 ESV I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Joshua 1:9 ESV Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Philippians 4:6 ESV Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Psalm 27:1 ESV The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Romans 8:38-39 ESV For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 56:3 ESV When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

80 times in the Bible we are told: You will not be afraid. This is not a suggestion. This is not God saying “Please don’t be afraid.” This is God commanding you, insisting you, and demanding: You will not fear them.

Fear not is a command, not a feeling. Obey it. Do not be afraid. Be courageous. Be bold. Be brave.

What do you fear in life? Are you afraid of the bully at school? Are you afraid of the future? What about your life at home? Are you afraid to come home at night? What do you fear?

God says: Fear not.

But how can we do this? Fear seems so powerful. It’s natural to be afraid. It’s natural to feel anxious, fearful, afraid, even terrified. What do we do with these feelings?

I’ll teach you key equation of fear. There is only one legitimate fear. And if you have that one fear placed properly, all other fears will disappear. One fear is acceptable, reasonable, and wise.

It is to Fear God. Fear God. Tremble before God. Regard God as mighty, powerful, holy, and beyond us. Tremble and revere Him. And what’s amazing is, when we fear God, He who loves us, when we fear Him, all other fears disappear. That is the secret equation to be free from a thousand fears. Replace the 1 thousand with one: The fear of God.

Proverbs 19:23 ESV The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.

Psalm 111:10 ESV The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Matthew 10:28 ESV And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Luke 1:50 ESV And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

Revelation 15:4 ESV Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Monday, May 6, 2019

Why I Post about Jesus on Social Media & Why You Should Too

I'd like to make the case as to why you should utilize your social media accounts for the glory of God. I'd like to share my experience with this journey of social media use, some of the people I've been able to influence, as well as some of the mistakes I've made, and instructions for how you can begin to utilize social media to influence people for Jesus.  

I've seen people make two mistakes when it comes to social media use.  One is that people over-utilize social media, they post their problems on social media, they use it for gaining attention, and spend far too much time on it.  This extreme should be avoided. 

The other mistake I've seen people make is that they demonize social media, and treat it like it's some sort of disease on society.  They lament social media, and shun it.  There is no reason to go to this extreme either.  

Most of us use social media for rather simple purposes, we share pictures of our family and friends.  We give people occasional updates on our lives.  We post cute cat videos and inspiring videos of people helping others.  Sometimes we post news articles, and recent events in our area.  It's a way to stay in touch with friends and family, and even connect with old friends.

Before I even became a Christian I made use of social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. I created websites for fun, and posted my writing online.  But once I became a Christian, I quickly realized that everyone in the world needs Jesus Christ.  

As I went through my life, over days, weeks, and months I found myself with only a sad few opportunities to share Jesus or scripture or the existence of God with people in my life.  I had never been a particularly dynamic conversationalist.  I had always had a bit of a nervous disposition. Yet I had this yearning in my soul, this aching in my soul to share Jesus with people I knew.  

One day it dawned on me, I was connected to most of these people, my family, extended family, some of my coworkers, my friends, and acquaintances on Facebook, Twitter, and other media platforms.  I could passively influence them toward Jesus and the gospel day by day, by occasionally posting to my social accounts.  

So I started doing that.  I started posting scriptures from Biblegateway.com's daily scriptures that come to my email.  I started posting little blurbs inviting people to come to my church on Sundays.  I "liked" a bunch of Christian pages, and joined Christian groups on Facebook, and started "resharing" pictures with Christian content on them.  

Over time I was sharing videos from Christian apologetics ministries, articles from Christian websites and blogs, and I was sharing just all sorts of Christian content via my social accounts.  I began to look for ways to connect with new people on Facebook and other platforms, with the hope that I could passively influence them through those accounts.  

Obviously this was a somewhat unorthodox way of using social media.  Occasionally people would become upset with a post, and begin arguing with me on the post.  Sometimes I would try to debate them, sometimes I would simply not engage.  Other times people would block me, or private msg me and ask me what my deal was.  I tried not to let it bother me.  Sometimes you have to stir things up a bit if you want people to know Jesus.  

Sometimes we're a little too careful not to offend anyone in this world.  Sometimes we need to take some risks, even risk offending others, for the sake of winning their eternal souls to Christ.  Or maybe we're just afraid.  But I was tired of being afraid.  It was time to take action.

Though some people got upset by my openness at sharing my faith, I found that most people didn't really know what to think of it.  But they watched and listened.  I tended to gather a group of about 20-50 people who would like the posts, and occasionally interact with the content.  

At first I didn't notice much of an impact.  But increasingly, I started to notice people begin to reshare the content I was sharing.  Occasionally I would hear a story of someone who had started attending a church somewhere.  Some of the people even began attending the same church I attended.  

Eventually I decided I needed to make a record of my faith journey, so I could help point others toward Jesus.  So I made a blog website and began posting links to my blog posts on social media as well. I became increasingly connected at my local church, along with the pastor of my local church, who I think felt a bit uncertain about my social media posts.  But I think he was generally pleased that I was trying to support the church and invite others.  

Now during these first few years of social media interaction I made some mistakes.  At times I would share personal rants about things.  This is always a no-no. Another stupid thing to do is to make passive aggressive posts toward someone without naming them directly.  This is easy to get away with usually, but it's just a nasty thing to do.  Quite a while ago I decided to end my sometimes passive aggressive approach to life. It doesn't help anything, it's best to simply be assertive and approach people directly.  

Another mistake I made, particularly in 2015-2016 was getting increasingly involved in politics, and I started sharing those viewpoints widely on my social media accounts.  The result was that I lost many, many friends.  Not just a few dozen, actually.  Hundreds of people "deleted me" on Facebook and other social media platforms.  I found that as I attended to conferences and other events in my organization I would find people who hated me, or disliked me, because of things I'd shared on social media.  For the record, I think it's a good thing to share your beliefs, but I realized I had to consider what my chief goal in life was.  And I quickly realized it was getting people to know Jesus Christ.  So I largely discontinued sharing my political opinions.  

Be thoroughly warned on this one friends: Share your political beliefs at your own risk. Nothing makes people madder than political debates.  And the country is severely polarized right now.  So be cautious, and consider people's feelings.

Anyway, the point is clear: Sharing Jesus Christ on social media is a great way to influence people.  Over months and years, I was amazed to see people beginning to attend churches in my area, people I had influenced on social media!  I saw people drawing closer to Jesus Christ.  I saw people getting excited about Jesus and the gospel.  

But it didn't happen in weeks or months, it took years sometimes of faithfully continuing to click share.  It's very important to be dedicated and persistent.  And honestly how easy is this!?  We can influence hundreds of people from the comfort of our own homes.  Since starting blogging, I've received over 600,000 views.  It's not that hard.  There are people everywhere, all over the world who have computers and internet and are looking for the truth.  

Don't be afraid to put Jesus out there.  Share his word.  It won't return void.  Imagine how many people we could reach if we all clicked share a few times on our social media accounts!  It could spread and spread to more people, and go viral, and pretty soon we'd reach the whole world for Jesus!  

We often assume that social media isn't really real, it's not real life, it's just computer stuff.  But behind every profile is a real person who is active in the real world.  Use social media to guide them toward faith in Christ.  This is a great opportunity to be evangelists for Christ, blasting the truth out there on social media!  So get to work!  Start clicking share, and through so doing, change the world.  All glory to God alone, I don't do anything.  We don't really do anything.  It's the Spirit of God working through the word of God, and the truth of God.  Amen. 

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