Friday, October 30, 2015

“Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.

The Assigning of the Call

Oswald Chambers

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church… —Colossians 1:24

We take our own spiritual consecration and try to make it into a call of God, but when we get right with Him He brushes all this aside. Then He gives us a tremendous, riveting pain to fasten our attention on something that we never even dreamed could be His call for us. And for one radiant, flashing moment we see His purpose, and we say, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us. We say, “If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!” But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

I wonder what finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you? Have you been as hard as a marble and escaped? If you are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you anyway, the wine produced would have been remarkably bitter. 

To be a holy person means that the elements of our natural life experience the very presence of God as they are providentially broken in His service. We have to be placed into God and brought into agreement with Him before we can be broken bread in His hands. Stay right with God and let Him do as He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

NUMBER 49 Thursday 29th Octiber 2015


Thursday 29th October 2015

Thursday word from Genesis number 49
'Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Make everyone leave my presence!” So there was no-one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers.' Genesis 45:1
As Judah finished pleading for Benjamin to be set free, expressing his willingness to take his place, explaining that to return home without him would kill their father, Joseph could not contain his emotions any longer. All previous conversations had been through an interpreter. The brothers had no idea that Joseph, all dressed up in his Egyptian regalia, was their long-lost brother. It was time to disclose to them who he was. He needed privacy and so he ordered all his officials and servants to leave the room.

Joseph's words were accompanied by floods of tears. So loud was his wailing that everyone outside the room heard it and news got back to Pharaoh's household,(v 2). You can imagine the gossip that travelled along the Egyptian grapevine! It must have been a terrible shock for the brothers to suddenly hear this 'Egyptian' speaking fluently in their mother tongue, never mind what he had to say. Having previously kept them at a distance, Joseph drew his brothers close to him (v 4), repeating himself in an effort to convince them that he was indeed their long lost brother. They were terrified, not without good reason, but he reassured them of his goodwill and his desire that they didn't condemn themselves for what they have done. Joseph saw all that had happened as being part of God's plan to save many lives. Despite all the injustice he had experienced, Joseph bore no ill will or animosity towards his brothers. What a lovely spirit, something of the Spirit of Jesus, surely?

When we are totally surrendered to God, desiring that he fulfil his purposes through us, whilst we might not understand the difficulties and sorrows we experience, we can rest assured that God knows what he is doing. As with Joseph, troubles can be there to test us and build our character and prepare us for some particular service,and our consistent faith and trust in times of trouble so often is God's means of touching others and revealing that the Lord is with us. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

SCARED SPITLESS! Because... Joe Noland

Preamble: Little did I know, when recording this Video Log yesterday, that I would be sitting here watching the All Blacks defeat South Africa, taking them into the World Cup Final. We were in New Zealand in 2011 when they won the inaugural World Cup, the country ecstatic with joy. Caught up in the celebration, I was inspired to purchase two of the classic All Black T-shirts featured here and on the Vlog. UPDATE:  New Zealand to meet Australia in the final. A match made down under! Now to the other very important feature at hand.

(Because Evil Is Legitimized)

As I write, All-hallows’-Eve is on the horizon, ghouls and ghosts galore. Scary time! Actually, Halloween is an abbreviation of All-hallow-evening, which is the night before All-Saints’-Day, followed by the feast of All Souls, eventually coming to be known as “night-of-the-dead.” 

As a kid, Halloween was my favorite night of the year. Besides the treats were the tricks gleefully performed, whether it be soaping someone's windows, dumping trash barrels on a grouchy neighbor’s lawn or letting air out of tires, all seemingly acceptable for those few hours. It’s the one night of the year when evil is legitimized.

What's even more scary than ghosts and goblins, is how over time, a compassion-filled sacred vigil (poor souls being liberated from purgatory) can subtly transition into a fear-filled secular festivity where evil and cowering reign.

Whilst Halloween has evolved out of Catholic tradition, rest assured that they are not alone when it comes to juxtaposing the sacred with the secular over time. We've come to expect it in the secular realm, i.e., the prosecutor legitimizing evil in the name of justice–the law, separating the legal business from the compassion business (previous post).

30 years later the original prosecutor of the "wrongful conviction" says, "You see mother justice sometimes, a statue. And she has a blindfold over her eyes. She was crying last night because that wasn't justice. That wasn't justice at all.”

Conversely, the present day prosecutor, the one who isn’t in the compassion business, was quite satisfied that because of a loophole in the law this now proven innocent victim was denied $11,000 for every year of wrongful imprisonment. Instead, he was given a $20 gift card wishing him good luck. Interviewer question: ”Isn't the law supposed to provide fairness?” Prosecutor’s response: “It is supposed to provide justice. Yes, it's unfair. But It's not illegal. And it's not immoral. It just doesn't fit your perception of fairness.” WAIT A MINUTE!

The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God. (Micah 6:8 CEV)

Justice: “The quality of being just; fairness: In the interest of justice, we should treat everyone the same.” (Free Dictionary)

Mercy: “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power;” (Miriam Webster)

More “I Wonder” questions: “Over time, has the secular become juxtaposed with the sacred? Corporately, has the mercy been taken out of justice? Has evil become subtly legitimized? Has All-hallows’-Eve become Halloween?

Let mercy be your first concern…

Commissioners Doris and Joe Noland

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Baltic Bridges - Commissioner Sven Nilsson PART ONE “Our old grandmother is suffering...”

Sven Nilsson

I know how hopeless darkness feels,

how deep its chasm falls.

But from its furthest darkened border,

a bridge toward light extends.

Dawid Ekman
From the collection of poems, A Bridge toward Light

(Translation: Sven Ljungholm)

World War II caused great worry in politically neutral Sweden. A large part of the male population was conscripted for service in the military. Certain commodities were designated 'ration cards', and even though Sweden was located outside the war zone, people took notice of the fact that the neighboring countries were occupied. German transport trains rolled through Sweden.

The Salvation Army was affected in many different ways by the war. The male officer corps was mobilized for military emergency units. Within the local corps many men were inducted and which is why many of the brass bands had difficulties in functioning. But Salvationists in the various units took their Army engagements with them to their assignments and did much in the way of sharing their faith with others. Since many of our younger generations do not have personal memories of the war years, some of my own recollections can serve as an introduction to the story of The Salvation Army in the Baltic.

" Our old grandmother is suffering from a very serious illness, we sometimes wonder how much longer she can survive?" The message had been sent from Riga to Commissioner Karl Larsson, the leader for The Salvation Army in Sweden and Latvia. He understood the somewhat obscure text and answered: " Are the pains internal or external?"

After some time the answer came from Riga: "External! It is the frigid climate that is responsible, and a stroke is not out of the question."

Correspondence was censored, but the message as to the actual situation reached home. What was hidden behind that communication? The Salvation Army in Latvia was experiencing difficult persecution and was the grandmother in question. A poet once wrote: "The Army is my mother". Now she had been transformed to an elderly, ill grandmother.

We who heard Commissioner Larsson read the message during officers' councils at the annual congress were moved. The distance to the Baltic States was short. Our neighboring lands were occupied and the war events made a great impact on us. We had heard Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson's words that Sweden's level of readiness was sufficient, but we who had been drafted into the military service were aware of its deficiencies.

I had been serving my government and its military for almost a year and a half and the end was not in sight. I served deep within the interior of the mountain world of Lapland, close to the Norwegian border at a field hospital where we admitted ill and wounded service men but also refugees from many countries. They were frost bitten and distraught, and we listened to their dramatic stories. The war was brutal, even if we heard and saw only a small part of what was happening.
Some of us had guarded the German transport trains that had stopped at the station in Långsele and had served Swedish pea soup to seriously wounded German soldiers, who sometimes had to be hand fed, because they had lost their arms. In Sweden we lived as if we were an island in an ever tumultuous sea.

I had received permission to participate in the annual congress in Stocholm. The Salvation Army leaders had formulated a permit stating: " it is important that Corporal Nilsson, who is a Lieutenant in The Salvation Army, be given the opportunity to participate in the Congress deliberations." That is, in the officers' councils. It was in one of the meetings that the information from Riga was communicated.

During the congress the younger male officers were billeted in the gymnasium at Norra Real School, and when the officers' councils were concluded it was expected that everyone would return to their homes, as the gym was closed. But the train to Norrland was not scheduled to depart until the following day. The daily pay from the military was very low, so the funds did not stretch to a hotel room, which is why I got to spend the night in " hotel Humlegården (city park) . The park bench was hard but was compensated for by the small birds' reveille, which rang more softly than that of the military. Humlegård Park was filled with stacks of firewood for the future needs of the Stockholmers and the potato plants thrived in the flowerbeds. The thought of  "old grandmother" on the other side of the Baltic Sea returned often, but it would take a long time before the truth was completely revealed. And yet, will it ever be possible to know the whole truth?

Now that the leaders of The Salvation Army have given me the responsibility to write a history from these last few years I cannot detach myself from the revolutionary experiences of my first years as an officer. I have prioritized the story of the Baltic history of the Army, starting with the events of the early 1920s (Sweden's Army history comes in a separate volume.) It is a story of a self sacrificing and faithful battle carried out by people driven by the love of Christ.

End Part One

Sven Nilsson
Stockholm 2003

Refugees and Sweden: My perspective PART FIVE Conclusion

As the son of immigrants, I think I have some experience in this area. My siblings and I grew up with the Swedish language and traditions, even if we lived in Chicago. My nieces and nephew knew of their Swedish heritage and are proud of their heritage. My parent’s great grandchildren have less of a feeling of pride in their heritage, than my nieces and nephew. I suspect this is what will happen with all the refugees seeking a residence permit, and being granted one, and their children. 

The descendants of immigrants integrated into the new society. They accept the norms and tradition of the country in which they live, including the laws. She writes: “…the central train station in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, has been overrun with migrants; the volunteers that for the first few days showed up with food, water and clothes now seem to have lost interest.” This statement is incorrect. I have daily contact with a group of salvationists that are at the central train station in Malmö, almost every evening. Where she draws the conclusion that the volunteers in Malmö have lost interest in continuing to help the arriving refugees is – in my view – blowing in the wind. She has not factual basis on which to assert this, much less to present it as a fact.

The Future

The Swedish government, as well as the governments of other countries where refugees have landed, is going to have to build up quickly structures that will be capable of handling all of the refugees arriving on our door-step. As an example – Malmö during the crisis that happened during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia – had an (Invandrarförvaltning) Immigrant Department, which it no longer has. 

“Migrationsverket” started toward the end of the crisis to start a program called “Kontaktnätet” Contact Network. The idea was to pair an immigrant with a Swede, in the hope they would become friends. As friends do, they would help one another. The Swede would be a good resource for the immigrant, as to which agency of government helps with a particular problem. This program no longer exists. I think these foreshadow the likely course of action in Sweden, at least something like this, once again. 

There is going to, once again, be a need for para-legal counselling services directed to these refugees. All refugees in Sweden are entitled to have a barrister or solicitor that will represent them with their applications for asylum. I assume, things will be as they were in the 90s, that these barristers and solicitors do not invest in doing a lot of research to obtain documentation necessary to prove that they are refugees. During the 90s I built a contact network with attorneys and government ministers and agencies in the country of origin. I supplied attorneys throughout Sweden with new information. The new information resulted in new briefs being filed on behalf of their clients. It is only through volunteer para-legal to dig up.

These are some of the changes that I foresee happening in the near future.

Let me close by once again citing the words of the fourth General of The Salvation Army, General Evangeline Booth: “There is no reward equal to that of doing the most good to the most people in the most need”.

Leonard Johnson
FSAOF Sweden

Friday, October 23, 2015

Refugees and Sweden: My perspective PART FOUR

On the website of the Swedish Democratic Party you can read the following words: “den sammanlagda nettoeffekten av massinvandringen från avlägna länder starkt negativt, såväl ekonomiskt som social”. My translation: the combined effect of this mass immigration of people for countries far removed from Sweden, is strongly negative for both the economic sphere as well as in the social sphere.” Let me quote from the OECD publication Migration Policy Debate, issued September 2015:  “Refugees have skills (many of them have college degrees)…. (need help in language training for them and) their successful integration as well as for a positive economic impact of these flows in destination countries.” 

So according to OECD the net effect economically is positive and not negative. Once again you can read the following: “…European countries, even if initially caught off guard, were generally able to deal successfully with the situation and largely integrated those migrants who remained. Countries also have benefited economically from these inflows in many cases, at least in the longer run.” The party’s words – “från avlägna länder starkt negativt” – my translation is “countries far removed from Sweden”. 

I suspect this is only another way of saying countries from which Muslims come. It appears to reveal a fear of Islam as a religion. A fear that the Muslim population of Sweden will seek to change our laws and put in its place Muslim law, that is, Sharia law. 

Everything is based on cost, but should it be? My answer is simple – NO! The response mandated by Scripture; don’t think about cost – use your resources in the best manner. 

Here I would like to quote from what the Founder of The Salvation Army had to say: “Brought it all on themselves, you say? Perhaps so, but that does not excuse our assisting them!” He goes on to say: “But what shall we do? Content ourselves by singing a hymn, offering a prayer or giving a little good advice? NO! Ten thousand times no!” and further he says: “But our business is to help them all the same. And that in the most practical, economical and Christ-like manner.”

The fourth General of The Salvation Army said: ”There is no reward equal to that of doing the most good to the most people in the most need”. 

And finally the words of our Lord Jesus, the Christ when He said: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” None of these individuals talk about, first you see what it costs to help, and then you decide on whether or not you want to pay the cost – no they all call for action from us. The action expected is to offer help to all who need help. No questions asked. 

In the short-term there is an increase in the costs to help these refugees, but in the long-term view it will be an economic plus to Sweden and all other countries giving refugee status to these fleeing refugees. Sweden along with most other countries of the EU has a low reproduction rate – we don’t have enough babies. We know that in the near future we are going to need people to replace those that will be entering retirement. We are then going to have to import people to Sweden, from other countries, in order to keep the Swedish Welfare System functioning. That is a simply fact. 

In the short-term there is an increase the costs to help these refugees, but in the long-term view it will be an economic plus to Sweden and all other countries giving refugee status to these fleeing refugees. Sweden along with most other countries of the EU has a low reproduction rate – we don’t have enough babies. We know that in the near future we are going to need people to replace those that will be entering retirement. We are then going to have to import people to Sweden, from other countries, in order to keep the Swedish Welfare System functioning. That is a simply fact.

In the article “Sweden Close to Collapse”, written by Ingrid Carlqvist, a Swedish Journalist, published by Gatestone Institute. As I wrote earlier, “From my research some of the leaders of this organization seem to espouse rather right-wing views.”

She writes: “If the wave of migrants keeps coming, in 10-15 years, Swedes will be a minority in their own country.” She also writes “For the last few weeks, the central train station in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö, has been overrun with migrants; the volunteers that for the first few days showed up with food, water and clothes now seem to have lost interest.”

“The number of people of Swedish descent – born in Sweden with two parents born in Sweden – has been stable at about 7.7 million and is expected to remain stable or increase slightly due to birth surplus.” This was quoted by Ingrid Carlqvist in her article as coming from SCB Statistics Sweden.  I have checked and searched the SCB website. I did this in an effort to verify the about quote as coming from SCB, but found nothing on the site.

Ingrid Carlqvist has written: “If the wave of migrants keeps coming, in 10-15 years, Swedes will be a minority in their own country.” This is, in my view, an incorrect assumption. She also quotes from SCB the following: “The number of people of Swedish descent – born in Sweden with two parents born in Sweden….” This definition would indicate that the number of Swedes covered by this definition would be applicable to those who are the Grandchildren of immigrant ancestry. They would, after all, be considered Swedes according the SCB definition. As what I have just said is obvious or should be to thinking people, how in all the world to you get to a situation where “Swedes will be a minority in their own country”?

Leonard Johnson
FSAOF Sweden