Sunday, August 30, 2009

Whose got a Tattoo then?

I was so impressed with the tattoo on the left had side of this page a few weeks ago that it reminded me of a time when I might have done the same thing; Salvo of the Salvo’s and all that sort of stuff. Not only was I impressed with the content of the Tattoo but it is a seriously good piece of art, and although I have only glanced at some of the Tattoo magazines occasionally, it would rank as equal to any of them as just ‘good stuff’.

The story is told of the Salvation Officer in North Korea who was banned from wearing his uniform when the Army was proscribed in the early 50’s. He was so disappointed that he had his insignia tattooed on his body so that they could not actually take away his expression of faith. (Someone might be able to confirm this piece of history for me) Now that is commitment and we will all have different views of that but just the same a tattoo is something that you cannot go back on very easily, is it?

Many people have been through mid life crisis and it has expressed it in many different ways. I was recently talking with someone about men in mid life crisis and she expressed a great deal of scorn about mature men who feel they need to compete in a younger world and have hair transplants and even face lifts and many of the other aspects that is perceived of fighting against the years, that need not be mentioned to this delicate audience; and she added the “imbecilic need some mature men have for red sports cars”. It was, I perceived a much practiced speech about the vagaries of men’s fight against maturity, and when she had finished I sort of agreed with her and dropped into the conversation that I used to have a 1980 red Triumph sports car that for a time was the love of my life. My perception is that she was more embarrassed than I was. At about that time of mid life crisis I did go and get an ear stud. When people asked me why I was able to say very confidently “I have two very good reasons for doing this; it’s my ear, and I could afford it” Now I know that you might say that is not a really good idea but at the time it seemed as good as any and it is still there and a few brave people ask me why.

Many years ago I heard a radio interview with a young DJ and a mature woman who was an expert in etiquette, people were ringing in and there was the usual I have got a tattoo here or there... and it was a very interesting discussion. At the end of the interview the mature woman said that she was going to get a tattoo, in an ‘intimate place’. The DJ was aghast and asked her why; “one day I will possibly have to be in care and people will have to do all sorts of intimate things for me that I can no longer do or myself. When they do these things they will see the tattoo and realise that this elderly woman who needs everything done for her, once had a life”. Whether you agree with her rationale or not is immaterial, it was important for her.

Around the same time as this much maligned mid life crisis attacked me, I was in the States and at the San Jose airport when the world changed forever. Yes 9/11 changed many people’s lives and the next week that I was in San Jose I went to sit in a Starbucks Coffee shop every day and for possibly the first time in my life had a major re-evaluation of what I was involved in and how I could make a more significant difference in the world. I am a serial joiner and I had quite a large list of the things that I was involved, what got on to that list to keep doing and what didn’t is a whole story but what did fall under the line was playing in brass bands, that at the time I was up to 48 years almost continually, but it went. On my eventual return to Australia I was wondering how I could recognise this decision to make a more significant event. Well you have realised, I am sure from the start of this article that I went and got a tattoo. I do not make a big thing of this but in most people’s minds the unspoken question is ‘where has he got it?’ and I can tell you that I saw in the tattoo studio things that made my eyes water, but I have it in a place where it is easy to see every morning in the bathroom mirror, and where it will remind me of that decision to make a greater difference in the world. Now the only thing left is what I should use.

I have always been fascinated with Jewish and Hebrew culture and one of my prized possessions is a small piece of rock from Masada that a friend brought home for me. So I decided that I would have תיקון עולם as the graphic. Now for all of you who are not fluent in Hebrew it is the characters that represent the concept of ‘to heal, mend and repair the world’. I am sure that it is not original as a tattoo but this one is mine and it is there forever so until the time I am in the twilight home for the bewildered and I can’t stand up to look in the mirror I will have that constant reminder of what I have to do today. I would like to think that it s a magic answer to the motivation that we all seek, but it is just a reminder of a time when I reinvigorated my long standing decision to continue to try and make a positive difference in my world.

So there it sits looking at me and when I tell people I am aware that they often put me into the segment between aging hippy and radical lefty which neither fits very well. Even with a tattoo I am still just me.

Now if you want advice on what tattoo is best for you...... give me a call and I will tell you how painful it was.

Peter Fletcher

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I don't think I've ever done this before. While reading Will You Choose Joy?, by Normajean Honsberger, I caught myself smiling. Repeatedly. Actually, almost constantly.

Now, this may be because I knew and loved the author, before her body succumbed to cancer at the age of forty. She was a delightful, humble, beautiful, loving servant of God. But I think, even if I had not known Normajean (and her husband Al, who also died of cancer, five years before her), I still would have smiled through much of the book.

This is because Will You Choose Joy? is as delightful as its author. Its subtitle, "Reflections on Philippians," hardly does it justice. It is a thorough and tremendously insightful exposition of Paul's letter to the first-century church at Philippi, in which his theme was joy. And it is also a reflection on the topic of joy, an instruction manual on living a joyful lifestyle. But it is even more than that. It is a depiction of joy, a powerful testimony to the reality of a joy that not only survives sorrow and pain, but is actually nourished and strengthened by such difficulties. And it is a vehicle of joy, as I'm confident that any reader will, like me, inhale the joy this book not only encourages, but exudes.

Will You Choose Joy? retails for $14.95 (ISBN 978-0-89216-115-7) but is available for $9.99 from The Salvation Army. The book can be ordered by calling toll free (888) 488–4882 or via e–mail at It should also be available soon in stores, and online via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Bob Hostetler

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I first drove to Adelaide to see my girl friend at Easter in 1965. We had met on a band trip a few years earlier, so I passed my driver’s licence, bought a beat up old 1948 series Holden and knew independence and freedom like never before. The world was mine and a 12 hour trip, overnight to see the love of my life; was not a problem. I can count the years since I first did the trip but have lost count of the number of times that I have actually ‘done the drive’.

Somewhere on one of those earlier trips I saw a tree that I just had to take a picture of. A tree had fallen over in a storm and only a small portion of its root system stayed in the ground; but it was still growing. Many years ago I used it as an illustration of the power that we all have to overcome adversity. A lot of vegetation comes and goes over the years and in more recent years I lost track of the real tree. I did have a photograph; you know one of those old fashioned ones that you had to take to a developing place and they developed these long flat bits of plastic and magically a picture appeared, and I occasionally found it when packing up, deciding what to throw out and what to keep, I always kept the photograph but every time I passed where I thought the real tree was I could not find it.

I cannot express my excitement 43 years after that first trip, on a beautiful day for driving as I was thinking about it and wondering if it had found its way to a fireplace, there it was just west of the Conconjella Bridge on the Adelaide side of Ararat. Would you think less of me if I told you that I got really excited and when it was safe to do so did a U turn to go back and have a look and yes this is the picture I took just a few weeks ago. After all these years it is still growing, new shoots and leaves and looking very healthy, even though it is lying down rather than standing up straight and tall not like most of all the others.

For me, being an avid reader of this blog and seeing, and feeling the great pain of so many of my former colleagues, that in a sense reached a hiatus with the recent article on ‘Get Over it’, and then all the responses that referred to Jungian theory, and his possibly severe way of dealing with people who were stuck in their pain. Yes in our situation we need to identify with those in pain and sometimes just sit with them, but there does come a time when despite all that has happened the realisation comes that ‘Life does indeed, go on’. In his landmark book on the psychology of love M. Scott Peck starts with just three words: “Life is Difficult”, he then goes on to say that when we fully understand that, and accept it, we can then begin to put the whole of our life into context.

This picture of ‘My tree’, is eventually going to be a poster above my desk and when I see it I will always know that no matter how small my grip within my heritage is I can still grow and flourish, and be a place where the birds of the air can come and nest. Knowing my hairstyle, that’s metaphorical rather than literal. I might look a little bit different to all the other trees but I am just as healthy and playing my part in the landscape of life.

Peter Fletcher
Peter Fletcher

Friday, August 21, 2009

To Lead Is to Make Decisions

Someone said once, that the one thing all leaders have in common is that they have followers. True. But they also have enemies.

A friend recently defined leadership for me this way:

“Leadership is disappointing people at a pace they can tolerate.”

That makes more sense, in a real, down to earth type of church setting. It reminds me of a quote I read recently in a Teddy Roosevelt biography, which I adapted to:
To lead is to make decisions. To make decisions is to alienate some.
I wish it weren't so, but it is. Every time a leader makes a decision, someone is going to disagree--perhaps strongly--with that decision. But it is the leader's task to decide, and whenever possible to communicate the reasons for a decision as effectively as possible, so that (it is hoped) the majority of folks who might have an opinion are helped toward acceptance and even support of the decision. But every decision will engender disagreement, and the harder the decision, the more likely the disagreement will be both sharp and broad.

Some leaders, wounded by this reality, turn to a modus operandi of trying never again to make an unpopular decision (which, of course, makes them more followers of the crowd than leaders of the flock). Others of us try to survive by shutting down or shutting out all criticism because it's just too painful, demotivating, and even demobilizing to hear a constant thrumming of negative reaction.

I hope to become a leader who can do neither. I hope to get better at facing the reality that decisions invite disagreement. But with THAT reality comes another: every disagreement presents an opportunity for a new decision, to fight, to flee, or (the choice I hope to take), to acknowledge the leader's role, responsibility...and respect for those who disagree.

Tom Wood (from Bob Hostetler's blog)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Rescue the Perishing.. 'Do What ?' Great view !"

Jude 1:23 On a dangerous sea coast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The life-saving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical life-boat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life-saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station. So they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life-saving station was founded.


History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters - (1953 Episcopal Priest Theodore Wedel) . We have a great view of them as they go under...

"Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who takes it, means difficulty and scorn and suffering. For you it may mean more than this. It may mean death. He who beckons you from the sea however, knows what it will mean - and knowing, He still calls to you and bids to you to come.

You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises - very much of heaven on earth.

Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.

You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.

Every corps/church and every individual believer is called to be in the lifesaving business, reaching out to people who need to know that God has acted to rescue us all from sin and the eternal consequences..

Our mission was and continues to be God's soldiers, telling people the good news about Jesus Christ. Are you still in the lifesaving business? 2 Cor. 5:18, 20

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former USA East, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine
Exeter Temple Corps, UK

Saturday, August 15, 2009


My writer-friend (and former pastor and missionary) Cec Murphey tells the following story:

"Since you came, Mr. Murphey, our church has lost some of its dignity," Dorothy said as she served me tea from an ornate silver pot resting on a silver tray. And with the next breath she asked, "Milk or sugar, Mr. Murphey?"

"One lump, please," and I reached for the cup.

"We had such—such quiet dignity before you came. I don't want to hurt your feelings in telling you all of this. But…"

I had been the pastor of the church less than four months before she and her two sisters invited me to tea. For the next forty minutes the three of them tried to help me see the error of my ways. They didn't seem interested that we had added new members or that attendance by members had increased. Their concern was the loss of decorum.

Dorothy smiled as she offered me a cookie from a silver plate. "And another thing…" She looked at a pad of paper on which she and her sisters had written a number of items.

As I walked out of the house, depression weighted me down. Their criticism hurt. I sat in my car for several minutes and prayed in deep anguish. By the end of the day, however, I had grasped one significant fact about those three sisters. They were God's grace builders in my life.

Since that I've realized that every church, company, and neighborhood has at least one grace builder. They serve a divine purpose: They teach us invaluable lessons about patience and longsuffering. They force us to grow spiritually. Grace builders drive us to pray more fervently and to scrutinize our motives. Maybe they do more for us than all the sweet, kind, and encouraging people we encounter.

Grace builders: I've known many of them. Like Johnny. He pats me on the back and sounds friendly. He makes everything into a joke so that means I can't get angry—not even when he insults me. Even when he ridicules me. I'm not paranoid; I don't feel persecuted. But I have enough sense to know when a person insults me even though hiding behind jokes and light-hearted humor.

For the past 25 years I've been a full-time writer and I haven't escaped those grace builders. They email to remind me that they discovered a misspelled word on page 197 of my latest book (as if I yearned to know that or could do anything about it once the book is in print). Or one woman said, "You're a decent writer, not as good as _____."

We all have our grace builders. Our occupation doesn't matter. And, as much as I hate to admit it, they make life miserable enough for us that we pray and realize how much we have to depend on God's help. They serve a practical, spiritual function.
I don't like the grace builders in my life. I try to avoid some of them as much as possible. With others, I grit my teeth and face them. When I think of the grace builders at work in my life I have several words to describe them: They're obnoxious, self-centered, opinionated, and demanding. Without them I could accomplish more, and feel better about life and—or could I?
Probably not: They serve a practical purpose: They are God's gifts to make us grow. And we all have them.

Which makes me wonder: Whose grace builder am I?

Cec’s words sure ring true with this pastor. I had not been more than a few months in my first church (at age 22!) when a dear old saint in the church told my wife that the difference between me and my predecessor was that he had had personality! My wife and I laugh about it now, of course, but as the years have rolled by, I have had hundreds of similar opportunities to grow in grace as a result of what Cec calls “grace builders.”

Everyone has obnoxious, self-centered, opinionated, and demanding people in our lives; pastors certainly do! But are they really “grace builders….God’s gifts to make us grow?” Is that how you look at them? If so, why? And if not, why not?

Bob Hostetler
Former Officer
USA Nat'l HQ

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Is the seeker-friendly movement a new form of liberalism?

The following "Question" was asked by an attendee at the 2005 Shepherds' Conference (a ministry of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California), and was "Answered" by John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from "General Session #10


My wife and I have one son is at Southern Seminary and he’s kind of mildly, you know, thinking there’s good in the seeker-friendly movement—some of it—and my other son is totally hostile to it, and I’m caught in the middle. I was talking to somebody who is very high up in seminaries and just asked him a question, “Do you believe that the watering down”—and I’ve read literature and I’ve seen pamphlets where preaching is one line and there are 300 lines on worship and dance and everything else from the seeker-friendly movement—and I asked him, “Do you think that the seeker-friendly movement is a new form of liberalism? Is that where it’s going to take us?” And he said, “Yes, I do.” Do you believe the same thing?

John MacArthur's Answer

Absolutely. It is the new liberalism! It’s no different than the old liberalism, which was a social gospel. That’s what this is, only it’s not a social gospel, because it doesn’t reach out to the poor. It’s not the down-and-outers; it’s the up-and-inners. It’s a psychological gospel. So, the psychological feel-good gospel is the new liberalism. Nobody’s going to say that they deny the Word of God; it’s just not “relevant.”

I’ve said this many times: I can listen to a guy preach—put anybody in front of me—and I’ll tell you what his view of Scripture is by what he says. If he doesn’t preach out of the Bible, I know what his view of Scripture is, I don’t care what he says. I don’t care if he wants to die telling me he’s a believer in inerrancy, if he gets up and does not preach the Word of God, that’s his view of Scripture leaking all over the place. Look, every preacher preaches for impact, for effect, for result. You’re up there saying what you think is going to get you the best result. If you think it’s foolishness and fun n’ games and song n’ dance and sermonettes for Christianettes—if you think it’s that kind of stuff—that’s what you’re going to do; but if you know, as Al [Mohler] was saying, that the power is the truth, that God has, as we’ve heard all week, has invested his power, as R.C. [Sproul] said, in his Word, then that’s what you preach. I mean, it’s that simple! It comes down to this loss of preaching. And I’ll tell you, how do you know it’s the new liberalism? Because you can’t stop a seeker-friendly movement, because it’s going to be redefined, it’s going to be redefined, it’s going to be redefined… It’s relentlessly being redefined because the culture changes so fast in a media-driven society. It changes so fast!

You know, Schuller is the architect of this. Robert Schuller is the absolute father. The grandfather of the movement, who was a little bit below the radar, was Norman Vincent Peale. Norman Vincent Peale is a classic liberal. The primary impact that Norman Vincent Peale has had on the world is through his leading disciple, Robert Schuller, who said to me, “I can sign the confession of my denomination and makes the words mean anything I want them to mean.” Well, that’s classic neo-orthodoxy—or liberalism (whichever).

So, you’ve got Norman Vincent Peale, who creates this kind of liberal, social gospel; his number one disciple, positive-thinker Robert Schuller; Robert Schuller develops this concept of the church many years ago, where he goes into Orange County and he goes door-to-door, passes out cards, and tells people to write down what they want a church to be, and then he gives them what they ask for. He said in a speech at N.R.B. many years ago, “If you want to know how to build a church, ask the community, and give them what they want.” His most famous disciple trained into that model is Bill Hybels, and the second is Rick Warren. Rick Warren says, himself, that when he left seminary, he drove right to the Crystal Cathedral and was mentored there.

So, there’s a flow going on here. And where is it going? It’s going toward the Emerging Church. That’s why you can have all those people—Rick Warren and Brian McLaren—way out on the edge of the Emergent Church, you can have all those people at the same conference in San Diego all speaking, and, in between, sessions on Yoga. If you just look at the roots of something—and look where it’s going: if you let the culture define the church, there’s no way to catch up. So, now you go to Schuller’s church, you wouldn’t find anybody whose hair wasn’t gray, because they had their little niche for that little cultural group, and they go to the grave with them. And the same is going to happen with the others and the others and the others… It’s not transcendent. It’s not trans-cultural. It’s not even beyond their tiny little chronological zone. And that’s the problem with it, because if it’s culturally defined, it is its own worst enemy; it’s planned obsolescence.

To me it’s a metaphor, like looking at Oral Roberts University—has anybody ever seen Oral Roberts University? It looks like a parking lot for old spaceships that came out of the sixties, doesn’t it? Because, in an effort to be really, really modern, you become immediately obsolete. I look at that and I think, “That’s what this is and it never can reach beyond its own limits, self-imposed.” So, the illusion of the seeker-friendly movement is that it has the potential to have the greatest impact. The truth of the matter is its impact is narrow and limited and, in many, many cases, superficial—but it gives the appearance of impact. But stripped of any depth and any real continuity in content and things that come out of the Word of God, it is it’s own worst enemy.

I will tell you this, there’s really only one thing that I want to do in my ministry. There’s only one obligation that I have and it is this: to show people that the Scripture is the Word of the Living God, to be adhered to. I don’t want them to think I’m the authority, I don’t want them to think the culture is the authority; I just want them to know this Word is the authority. Now, how do you convince people of that if you don’t ever teach it? People coming through those kinds of environments, have a superficial, once-over-lightly view of Scripture. The depth of it utterly escapes them. The simplest apparent paradox in theology knocks them for a loop. They can’t think deeply about things and they’re, therefore, sentenced to a life of battling the flesh without ever being armed with sound doctrine to deal with it. I’m not picking on anybody, I’m just saying, once you move away from the Word of God, in my definition that’s “liberalism,” if you like that word. “Compromise,” whatever.

Widely known for his thorough, candid approach to teaching God’s Word, John MacArthur is a fifth-generation pastor, a popular author and conference speaker, and has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969. John and his wife, Patricia, have four grown children and fourteen grandchildren.

John’s pulpit ministry has been extended around the globe through his media ministry, Grace to You, and its satellite offices in Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa. In addition to producing daily radio programs for nearly 2,000 English and Spanish radio outlets worldwide, Grace to You distributes books, software, audiotapes, and CDs by John MacArthur. In thirty-six years of ministry, Grace to You has distributed more than thirteen million CDs and audiotapes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009



'GET OVER IT !', has been heard but a few times in this blog, however, in each instance drawn sharp responses. Perhaps its rare use is due the immensity of the required response. It’s one of those demands that seems to draw acid from whatever is fermenting below the surface. None-the-less, it’s perhaps the most important instructions handed out, and many point directly to that need when joining the FSAOF, and ‘getting over it’ is one act and experience that we spend much time considering privately and as a fellowship. Yet, even two years on some can’t seem to move on. Can it be that basking in misery is easier than seeking full psychological and spiritual well-being ?

The only daughter of a devoted mother and father was killed in a hit and run accident while out riding her bike. When eventually arrested, the driver responsible was discovered to have no license – it had been revoked as a result of a prior dangerous driving conviction – and no insurance.

In the trial that followed the driver was sent to prison for manslaughter. But for the dead girl’s parents, prison was not enough. After his daughter’s killer had served his sentence, on thye day of his release from jail , the girl’s father borrowed a gun and shot him as he stepped through the prison gates.

Amazingly the man survived. The girl’s father, however, was arrested for attempted murder. At his trial he confessed that he had wanted to kill his victim, and that the only remorse he felt was that he had not succeeded in his bid to avenge the death of his daughter. In spite of this confession, he was acquitted. The jury found the driver – who had never once shown the slightest sign of remorse for the life he had taken – so repulsive that they delivered a unanimous verdict of ‘not guilty’ for the attempt to murder him.

Even this was not enough for the girl’s parents. For them the issue was still far from resolved. As the months and years passed, rather than finding release from their bitterness through the retaliation they had already exacted, they became yet more consumed with the thought of revenge.

So it was that almost a decade later, that the girl’s mother was asked on national television if she wished that her husband had succeeded in his attempted murder. ‘No’. Came her surprising, but equally chilling, reply. ‘I need to pull that trigger myself. I need to watch him die in front of me, and know that I’m responsible.’

I doubt that any of us can empathize in full with the vindictive spirit of the parents, nonetheless, we all harbor, from time to time, a strong seeking for revenge. I’ll confess that on occasion my longing for revenge probably caused Jesus to turn away from me and cringe !

I am worried, due comments sometimes shared in the blog and FB site, that some in our fellowship are unable to resolve their fault finding of Army leaders and would, if they could, name them and their “sins” and nail the list of 95 offenses to the "Wittenburg Cathedral" door, or at the very least, on the FSAOF blog site! We have had to temper and/or delete a few comments posted to the blog due their vitriolic tone... (Comments shared in the FB site are not seen by the general public and consequently not edited.)

I posted articles focusing on forgiveness some weeks ago. Three persons who visited the blog at that time wrote to me asking that I expand on my thoughts, and speak to God’s sense of pain and the need for revenge.

When thinking of inflicting pain on God countless scenarios flood my mind. As it concerns religious groups my thoughts go directly to the account of Jesus in the temple (Luke 19:45-48). You will not find a single reference to Jesus being angry as He tossed the money-changers out of His temple.

Can the same be said of the SA leaders that processed your resignation and mine ? And if not, was anger and disappointment expressed by them due the reason for your resignation or dismissal ? I can name at least two SA Commissioners who some months following my resignation acted totally against the example demonstrated by Jesus. One who had acted against SA policy on a matter of behavior said: “Sven, if you ever mention this to the Chief of the Staff I’ll…” I had decided long before his threat to drop the matter, even though 2 soldiers working at THQ who witnessed the behavior bravely resigned in protest, without little hope of finding immediate work.

In retrospect, it would have been very much to my personal advantage if I’d flushed him out. However, it would have tainted the history of a life-long, faithful SA officer, and brought disgrace to the family and to the army. I will admit though that it took many months for me to just ‘get over it !’

I read recently, “Forgiveness does not condone the wrong. It does not deny the pain inflicted." However, it gains power over the evil we have experienced by choosing to leave it behind and in due time, getting over it.

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Exeter, England

Sven was a senior executive working in the airline industry prior to becoming a Salvation Army officer at age 40. He served with his then wife in the USA, Sweden, Russia, and Ukraine being one of the pioneers who re-established The SA in the former Soviet Union. A90 minute TV special, "THIS IS YOUR LIFE", was broadcast in his native Sweden, and 3 other TV broadcasts (Sweden, the UK) have featured his SA activities. He was a frequent contributor to SA periodicals. Subsequent to resigning from The SA he completed his PhD at Moscow State University and taught for several years at Central Ct. State University, and in the MBA program at 2 other New England universities. Today he continues teaching university courses online and is an active soldier of the Corps at Exeter Temple working with the homeless, encouraging them in the restoration of their lives through weekly credited Bible Study. a weekly roast beef luncheon club for the city's vulnerable, and coordinating The Master's Restoration Antique Works. Homeless persons assist in the restoration of antique furniture sharing the profits to provide necessary funding for self support and esteem.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Salvation Army Is On Denver’s Road Home

One of my favorite contemporary writers, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote in a 2006 New Yorker piece about a man he calls “Million Dollar Murray.” Murray Barr typified the plight of the chronically homeless individual who dots city streets all over America.
Over the ten years Barr remained on the streets in Reno, Nevada, officials there totaled up all his hospital bills, substance-abuse-treatment costs, doctors’ fees, and other expenses. According to Patrick O’Bryan, the Reno police officer who helped Barr off the streets time and time again, “it cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray.”

Photo courtesy of The Salvation Army New Frontier
In the 90s, a research database created by a Boston College graduate student graphed the problem of homelessness in the city of Philadelphia. What he found surprised the experts: homelessness doesn’t have a normal bell-curve distribution. Instead, the pattern follows the shape of a hockey stick. The term for that is “power-law” distribution. In other words, the problem of homelessness is most serious for a relatively small number of people on the far end of the distribution pattern. These folks are the chronically homeless individuals - like Murray Barr - who end up costing local governments the most for their care and maintenance.
Based on this discovery, a novel idea was developed by Philip Mangano, then director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness. Mangano has long been an advocate of solving the problem of chronic homelessness by stabilizing those in the worst shape with government-provided housing and supportive services. Under the watchful eye of a trained case-worker, chronically homeless people can become sober, receive counseling, get medical attention, find and keep a job, and have a place to live.
The city of Denver was an early convert to Mangano’s way of seeing things. In its early days, the program - called Denver’s Road Home - cost approximately $10,000 per person each year, or roughly a third of what it would cost the government to maintain that same person on the street. Now, the city has seen a 36% decrease in the number of chronically homeless people and an 11% drop in homelessness overall.
And, a recent change at The Salvation Army’s Crossroads Center Shelter in Denver will help the city reduce those numbers even further. This month the shelter will begin focusing all its efforts on transitional housing for men. Our very own Captain Ron McKinney says about the change, “one of the best ways to help people escape homelessness is through effective counseling and case management. We believe that this is the right time to direct our resources where they can do the most good for these homeless men.”
I pray that Captain McKinney is right. Let’s do more to stop the endless spiral into homelessness that so many people face by giving them tools and walking along side them while they learn and grow.

5th August, 2009
written by Kathy Lovin

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

To be or not to be offended - that's the question

A new and unprecedented right is now the central focus of legal, procedural, and cultural concern in many corridors--a supposed right not to be offended. The cultural momentum behind this purported "right" is growing fast, and the logic of this movement has taken hold in many universities, legal circles, and interest groups.

The larger world received a rude introduction to the logic of offendedness when riots broke out in many European cities, prompted by a Dutch newspaper's publishing of cartoons that reportedly mocked the Prophet Muhammad. The logic of the riots was that Muslims deserved never to be offended by any insult, real or perceived, directed to their belief system. Unthinking Christians may fall into the same pattern of claiming offendedness whenever we face opposition to our faith or criticism of our beliefs. The risk of being offended is simply part of what it means to live in a diverse culture that honors and celebrates free speech. A right to free speech means a right to offend, otherwise the right would need no protection.

These days, it is the secularists who seem to be most intent on pushing a proposed right never to be offended by confrontation with the Christian Gospel, Christian witness, or Christian speech and symbolism. This motivation lies behind the incessant effort to remove all symbols, representations, references, and images related to Christianity from the public square. The very existence of a large cross, placed on government property as a memorial, outside San Diego, California, has become a major issue in the courts, and now in Congress. Those pressing for the removal of the cross claim that they are offended by the fact that they are forced to see this Christian symbol from time to time.

We should note carefully that this notion of offendedness is highly emotive in character. In other words, those who now claim to be offended are generally speaking of an emotional state that has resulted from some real or perceived insult to their belief system or from contact with someone else's belief system. In this sense, being offended does not necessarily involve any real harm but points instead to the fact that the mere presence of such an argument, image, or symbol evokes an emotional response of offendedness.

The distinguished Christian philosopher Paul Helm addresses this issue in an article published in the Summer 2006 edition of The Salisbury Review, published in Great Britain. As Professor Helm argues, "Historically, being offended has been a very serious matter. To be offended is to be caused to stumble so as to fall, to fail, to apostasize, to be brought down, to be crushed." As evidence for this claim, Professor Helm points to the language of the King James Bible in which Jesus says to his disciples: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast in to hell" [Matthew 5:29].

Likewise, Jesus also speaks a warning against those who would "offend" the "little ones." As Professor Helm summarizes, "So to 'offend' in this robust sense is to be an agent of destruction. And to be offended is to be placed in desperate straits."

The desperate straits are no longer required in order for an individual or group to claim the emotional status of offendedness. This shift in the meaning of the word and in its cultural usage is subtle but extremely significant.

Offering a rather robust definition of this new usage, Professor Helm describes this new notion of offendedness as "that one is offended when the words and actions of another produce a feeling of hurt, or shame, or humiliation on account of what is said of oneself about one's deepest attachments."

Professor Helm's definition is rather generous, offering more substantial content to this modern notion than may be present in the claims of many persons. Many persons who claim to be offended are speaking merely of the vaguest notion of emotional distaste at what another has said, done, proposed, or presented. This leads to inevitable conflict.

"People have always been upset by insensitivity and negligence, but the profile of offendedness, understood in this modern sense, is being immeasurably heightened," suggests Professor Helm. "The right never to be offended, never to suffer feelings of hurt or shame, is being touted and promoted both by the media and by the government and interest in it is being continually excited." Thus, "Claims to be hurt or shamed are noticed. They are likely to be rewarded."

The very idea of civil society assumes the very real possibility that individuals may at any time be offended by another member of the community. Civilization thrives when individuals and groups seek to minimize unnecessary offendedness, while recognizing that some degree of real or perceived offendedness is the cost the society must pay for the right to enjoy the free exchange of ideas and the freedom to speak one's mind.

Professor Helm is surely right when he argues that the "social value" of offendedness is now increasing. All that is necessary for a claim to be taken seriously is for the claim to be offered. After all, if the essence of the offendedness is an emotional state or response, how can any individual deny that a claimant has been genuinely offended? Professor Helm is right to worry that this will lead to the fracturing of society. "We all hear things we don't like said about people and causes that we are fond of but in the changed social atmosphere we are being encouraged to give public notice if such language offends us. I am now being repeatedly told that I am entitled not to be offended. So--from now on--not offended is what I intend to be. Does this heightening of sensitivity make for social cohesion? Does not such cohesion depend rather on enduring what we don't like, and doing so in an adult way? Does not the glue of civic peace rest on such intangibles as the ability to laugh at oneself, to take a joke about even the deepest things? And is it not a measure of the strength of a person's religion that they tolerate the unpleasant conversation of others? Isn't playing the offendedness card going to result in an enfeebling of the culture, the development of oversensitive and precious members of the 'caring society'? Whatever happened to toleration?"

Given our mandate to share the Gospel and to speak openly and publicly about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, Christians must understand a particular responsibility to protect free speech and to resist this culture of offendedness that threatens to shut down all public discourse.

Of course, the right for Christians to speak publicly about Jesus Christ necessarily means that adherents of other belief systems will be equally free to present their truth claims in an equally public manner. This is simply the cost of religious liberty.

An interesting witness to this point is Salman Rushdie, the novelist who was once put under a Muslim sentence of death because he had insulted Muslim sensibilities in his novel The Satanic Verses. Mr. Rushdie presents an argument that Christians must take seriously.

"The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted is absurd. So too is the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted. A fundamental decision needs to be made: do we want to live in a free society or not? Democracy is not a tea party where people sit around making polite conversation. In democracies people get extremely upset with each other. They argue vehemently against each other's positions," Rushdie insists.

As the novelist continues: "People have the fundamental right to take an argument to the point where somebody is offended by what they say. It is no trick to support the free speech of somebody you agree with or to whose opinion you are indifferent. The defense of free speech begins at the point where people say something you can't stand. If you can't defend their right to say it, then you don't believe in free speech. You only believe in free speech as long as it doesn't get up your nose."

As the Apostle Paul made clear in writing to the Corinthians, the preaching of the Gospel has always been considered offensive by those who reject it. When Paul spoke of the cross as "foolishness" and a "stumbling block" [1 Corinthians 1:23] he was pointing to this very reality--a reality that would lead to his own stoning, flogging, imprisonment, and execution.

At the same time, Paul did not want to offend persons on the basis of anything other than the cross of Christ and the essence of the Christian Gospel. For this reason, he would write to the Corinthians about becoming "all things to all people, that by all means I might save some" [1 Corinthians 9:22].

Without doubt, many Christians manage to be offensive for reasons other than the offense of the Gospel. This is to our shame and to the injury of our Gospel witness. Nevertheless, there is no way for a faithful Christian to avoid offending those who are offended by Jesus Christ and His cross. The truth claims of Christianity, by their very particularity and exclusivity, are inherently offensive to those who would demand some other gospel.

Christians must not only contend for the preservation and protection of free speech--essential for the cause of the Gospel--we must also make certain that we do not fall into the trap of claiming offendedness for ourselves. We must not claim a right not to be offended, even as we must insist that there is no such right and that the social construction of such a right will mean the death of individual liberty, free speech, and the free exchange of ideas.

Once we begin playing the game of offendedness, there is no end to the matter. There simply is no right not to be offended, and we should be offended by the very notion that such a right could exist.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Feed My Sheep

Cornelie Booth (song writer and married to the Founder's son, Herbert Booth)

This is from “Proclaimer of Salvation, UK.”

This song was in the previous songbook, now deleted, but has brought me much blessing, especially in recent days.

Bring to the Saviour thy burden of grief,
The guilt of the past and thy record of shame;
Naught but His mercy can bring thee relief,
Naught but His power can restore thee again.

Bring to the Saviour thy wasted career,
He follows thy feet o’er the pathway of life,
Lingers to help thee and listens to hear,
longs to deliver from sorrow and strife.

Bring to the Saviour and leave at His feet,
Thy soul to be cleansed and thy heart to be filled;
Bring Him thy needs,
He will make thee complete;
Bring Him thy tempests, he’ll bid them be stilled.

Bring Him thy sorrow, bring Him thy tears,
Bring Him thy heartaches, bring Him thy fears,
O tell Him plainly how thou dost feel,
Ever believing Jesus can heal.

Cornelie Booth

It’s like the song which tells us: “All thy anxiety, all thy care, Bring to the mercy Seat, leave it there…” – another song which brings much blessing. I’ve preached on the subject of leaving burdens with Jesus and not taking them back again, but why is it so difficult?

For me, as regards my Officership, it was bound up with feeding His sheep. While I worked as a Care Assistant with elderly and disabled people, I was at least carrying out my calling in that way. We also led Meetings sometimes at a small, sometimes un-officered North London Corps – now closed - and I was the Corps pianist. When we moved away, and I was no longer able to do that, and worked in an entirely different sphere of work, it troubled me greatly. Our Officer told me that God forgives, so I must forgive myself, but it’s not that easy, is it? So I put it out of my mind, but never really faced the problem. Only over the years have I come to realise that although I could come to terms with leaving officership for health reasons, I never really faced up to the fact that I didn’t follow God’s original, individual calling to me personally.

A while ago, I tried to discuss my feelings of guilt with a friend who, trying to be helpful, said that I shouldn’t think that way. At a Congress, I went to the Mercy Seat, but after the obligatory Counsellor had left me, I found that some friends, trying to be helpful and supportive, had followed me, when all I wanted was some space; some time alone – in spite of being in that big Congress crowd - with God. It would have been churlish to tell them to go away, so I still couldn’t find peace.

Shortly after Congress, the Officer insisted that we needed to talk. I shared some of what was on my mind. Maybe she was astute, because she asked if there was anything else, but I just said no. The point of this is that when we feed His sheep, in whatever way, we need to be sure we meet people’s real needs, not what we assume their needs to be.

What brought my Call to the front of my mind again was the murder of Colonel Brekke. I thought about all that they have offered as a couple, done and celebrated in God's service as officers. It caused me to reflect on the little that I have done and achieved, although we all had the same Divine Call, potential, training and opportunities. Finally, I found peace by sharing with this Former SA Officers Fellowship – that’s a way we can all feed His sheep.

Now, in my current environment, we sometimes lead Meetings at the Corps. Sometimes I have the opportunity to turn conversations with colleagues at work to spiritual things, and have had the opportunity to stand up for Jesus by an item which I wrote in the Department’s Staff Newspaper. This brought me into contact with other Christians, and we have some E-mail Fellowships.

I read an article in a Sunday magazine recently where someone said that people may forget what you said, and what you did, but they will remember how they felt when they were with you. We can all try to show something of Christ to those around us by the way we live our lives, and by our interactions with those with whom we live and work, even if we don’t get much other opportunity to directly feed his sheep.

Proclaimer of Salvation, UK.”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

They are leaving the family

From The Times
July 15, 2009
The Americans know this will end in schism
Support by US Episcopalians for homosexual clergy is contrary to Anglican faith and tradition. They are leaving the family
Tom Wright

In the slow-moving train crash of international Anglicanism, a decision taken in California has finally brought a large coach off the rails altogether. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States has voted decisively to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, of persons in active same-sex relationships. This marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Both the bishops and deputies (lay and clergy) of TEC knew exactly what they were doing. They were telling the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other “instruments of communion” that they were ignoring their plea for a moratorium on consecrating practising homosexuals as bishops. They were rejecting the two things the Archbishop of Canterbury has named as the pathway to the future — the Windsor Report (2004) and the proposed Covenant (whose aim is to provide a modus operandi for the Anglican Communion). They were formalising the schism they initiated six years ago when they consecrated as bishop a divorced man in an active same-sex relationship, against the Primates’ unanimous statement that this would “tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level”. In Windsor’s language, they have chosen to “walk apart”.

Granted, the TEC resolution indicates a strong willingness to remain within the Anglican Communion. But saying “we want to stay in, but we insist on rewriting the rules” is cynical double-think. We should not be fooled.

Of course, matters didn’t begin with the consecration of Gene Robinson. The floodgates opened several years before, particularly in 1996 when a church court acquitted a bishop who had ordained active homosexuals. Many in TEC have long embraced a theology in which chastity, as universally understood by the wider Christian tradition, has been optional.

That wider tradition always was counter-cultural as well as counter-intuitive. Our supposedly selfish genes crave a variety of sexual possibilities. But Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachers have always insisted that lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse. This is not (as is frequently suggested) an arbitrary rule, dualistic in overtone and killjoy in intention. It is a deep structural reflection of the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purposes for that creation).

Paganism ancient and modern has always found this ethic, and this belief, ridiculous and incredible. But the biblical witness is scarcely confined, as the shrill leader in yesterday’s Times suggests, to a few verses in St Paul. Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of “private response to Scripture” but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.

The appeal to justice as a way of cutting the ethical knot in favour of including active homosexuals in Christian ministry simply begs the question. Nobody has a right to be ordained: it is always a gift of sheer and unmerited grace. The appeal also seriously misrepresents the notion of justice itself, not just in the Christian tradition of Augustine, Aquinas and others, but in the wider philosophical discussion from Aristotle to John Rawls. Justice never means “treating everybody the same way”, but “treating people appropriately”, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations. Justice has never meant “the right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire”.

Such a novel usage would also raise the further question of identity. It is a very recent innovation to consider sexual preferences as a marker of “identity” parallel to, say, being male or female, English or African, rich or poor. Within the “gay community” much postmodern reflection has turned away from “identity” as a modernist fiction. We simply “construct” ourselves from day to day.

We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other — a distinction regularly obscured by references to “homosexual clergy” and so on. We all have all kinds of deep-rooted inclinations and desires. The question is, what shall we do with them? One of the great Prayer Book collects asks God that we may “love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise”. That is always tough, for all of us. Much easier to ask God to command what we already love, and promise what we already desire. But much less like the challenge of the Gospel.

The question then presses: who, in the US, is now in communion with the great majority of the Anglican world? It would be too hasty to answer, the newly formed “province” of the “Anglican Church in North America”. One can sympathise with some of the motivations of these breakaway Episcopalians. But we should not forget the Episcopalian bishops, who, doggedly loyal to their own Church, and to the expressed mind of the wider Communion, voted against the current resolution. Nor should we forget the many parishes and worshippers who take the same stance. There are many American Episcopalians, inside and outside the present TEC, who are eager to sign the proposed Covenant. That aspiration must be honoured.

Contrary to some who have recently adopted the phrase, there is already a “fellowship of confessing Anglicans”. It is called the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is now distancing itself from that fellowship. Ways must be found for all in America who want to be loyal to it, and to scripture, tradition and Jesus, to have that loyalty recognised and affirmed at the highest level.

Tom Wright is Bishop of Durham UK