Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Name (1 of 3)

This week's discipline – our 6th in the series is about serving God. But the title of this message is in His Name. What does it mean to serve in His Name? Let me ask it this way, is there a reason that an organization is called the Red Cross? The emblem itself was chosen, in the 1860s in honor of the man who appealed for such an organization. The man was from Switzerland and the emblem of the Red Cross is the opposite of the Swiss flag. However, the notion of a cross obviously carries a religious connotation and within fifteen years, in the mid/late 1870s, the Red Crescent was also adopted. The Ottoman Empire respected the Red Cross, but many Muslim soldiers were offended by the Cross, so the Crescent was adopted. Then in 2005, a Red Diamond was adopted for any nation (such as Israel) that might not identify with either the Cross or the Crescent. (Source) But again, though its origins were not completely dependent on what a Christian might consider the nature of the Cross, the Cross as an emblem has a distinctive meaning, and if the organization did not wish to have that idea portrayed, it could just as easily been the Red Square – which, of course, has an entirely different meaning today.

Or how about the Salvation Army? William Booth was a pastor in England in the 1850s. In the early 1860s, he decided rather than speak from a pulpit, he would preach in the streets. Many of his converts were people of the streets and he became their source for spiritual guidance. He encouraged them to go make other converts like themselves. This group, formally named “The Christian Mission” became known as the “Hallelujah Army” and he, as the general superintendent of this group, was affectionately known as the “General.” In 1878, while reading some campaign literature the statement “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.” He simply changed it to the “Salvation Army”, and along with his wife Catherine, founded this army of people dedicated to seeking the salvation of others. (Source)

So the Salvation Army was definitely started with the notion of serving in God's Name. The Red Cross, not so much, but the link between the cross and God is undeniable, so, at the least, they were drawing on the symbol's nature. Both of these organizations obviously still exist, but let me briefly mention one other that lasted just a short time, but is still remembered, at least by name, today.

The Pony Express. This organization, just barely preceded the first two I mentioned. All three organizations began in the early 1860s, but the Express began first on April 3, 1860. The purpose – deliver messages from St Joseph to as far as Sacramento – some 2000 miles, within 8 to 10 days. The work was tough. To try to gain the most speed, the riders wore as little as possible – even in the winter (and it is cold at this latitude). The riders carried a revolver and a knife, riding 75 to 100 miles each day, changing horses every 15 miles. Who would dare sign up for such a job? Especially with the following serving as the job posting (per a San Francisco newspaper):

“Wanted – young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

Yet, plenty of these “fellows” signed up to carry these messages. You might be interested in this – the cost of sending a ½ ounce letter - $25-$125 in today's money). So how long did this service last? 19 ½ months, until a line for the telegraph could be completed. (Source

Why do we remember it today? It represents service with sacrifice. Typically, we don't remember a lot of the ways we are served unless one or two things are true. One, there is sacrifice. Two, there is a problem. Unfortunately, in our society today we are more focused on remembering problems than with successes. But, for Christians, serving should come from within, but when it doesn't we must be disciplined anyway. So, in the next post (tomorrow), I will provide some thought on two primary points regarding serving – Christians are expected and gifted to serve. On Friday, the third post this week, I will share some thoughts on how serving fits with salvation and provides some thoughts on applying this week's posts.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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