Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Even the Dark Side Can't Hide from the Joy of the Christmas Season

Each day, I get Google alerts for news items from the Internet that contain Salvation Army in them. This time of year, I generally see 80 to 90 a day flow through my email, and if I'm lucky, I fully read 2 or 3 that catch my eye.

The other day, I was grabbed by the headline "Darth Vader as a bell ringer?" from an article on that reported on a Grand Rapids group of Star Wars fans who stood at a kettle for us last Christmas. While it was an old article, I couldn't resist seeing a picture of Darth Vader, bell in hand, at a kettle. The image got me thinking about what Darth Vader's character represents in the movies, the Dark Side of the Force, and while Vader is fictional, the symbolism is inescapable. At this time of year even the Dark Side can't resist helping a neighbor in need...

In Scripture, Jesus mentioned this concept in two passages. In Matthew 19:19 (NASB), He tells us, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," and in Luke 6:31 (NASB), He says, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you."

During the holidays, it seems that our hearts are most open to these messages - as most of us can't fathom the idea of our neighbors not having enough to eat or a warm place to call home. Regardless of the holiday that one celebrates, it seems to me the feeling is universal and transcends social, political and theological beliefs. Perhaps this is why the image of Darth Vader helping at a kettle caught my eye. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if we didn't limit our generosity to Christmas. Perhaps it's time to consider allowing ourselves to see those in need year round? If we did, maybe the joy, peace and hope we feel during the holidays would always be present.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I pray that you feel the joy of the season and the love of your neighbor.

Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Doing The Least Bad

"Jesus, I’m not as bad as that person..."

Maybe not in those words, but this just might be the phrase spoken around the world. How often do we compare ourselves to others? As a kid in Newark (Best city in the whole wide world!), there wasn't a basketball court you could go to that didn’t have someone shooting a basketball and exclaiming, "KOBE!" as they shot the ball. He was my generation's Michael Jordan and, therefore, was the standard of basketball supremacy. We all compared ourselves to him, and he was the standard upon which we judged skill.

Somewhere, between childhood and becoming an adult, we changed our comparative focuses. They went from desiring to be as good as Kobe, to not wanting to be as bad as the worse player. No longer did we compare ourselves to the best, rather we judged ourselves based on the worse.

Instead of doing the most good, we've settled for doing the least bad.

"Jesus I may not be the best, but I’m not the worse..."

That's got to count for something, right? Right? In the words of the old lady explaining Facebook to another old lady, "That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works."

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. - 2 Corinthians 10:12

When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, there were several false teachers spewing their poison into any set of ears that would hear them. Paul needed the people to be weary of these people, because foolishness can be contagious. To prevent the spread of this ignorance, Paul knew the first step in prevention is identification. He was telling the people of Corinth that they will know the truth by the standard it's compared to. Paul boasted in Jesus, whereas these teachings set themselves as the standards by which all things are measured.

Like them, we compare ourselves to the wrong thing. In our minds, "If I’m not the poorest, then I'm not poor." When in reality, we are. In the same way, "If I'm not the worse, then I'm not bad at all." Even though we do a fantastic job of convincing ourselves of this, we know it isn't true.

So what then should we do?

Instead of straddling mediocrity, let us strive for excellence! Easier said than done, right? I know because #TheStruggleIsReal. Well, since we are changing perspectives, why stop now? We fear failure and disappointment. These fears make the decision to avoid striving for the standard of Jesus easier. Perhaps we should change our perspective on what we are afraid of failing to reach.


It's out of our reach. A place we can't get to. This is true for our earthly selves. Luckily for us, perfection isn't a destination or the last stop on a train. It's a moment-by-moment opportunity. Each of these moments is a chance to see how our actions compare to that of the one true standard, Jesus Christ!

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). However, we are commanded to try because our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). 

Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:12-15 that this goal is worth striving for, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you."

A wise man once said, "If you're not first, you're last." Although he may have been a bit misguided, he still pointed out the truth that we should always strive to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. That's only possible if we dare to be like Jesus.

To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me.
In every thought and deed, this is my aim, my creed.
To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me.
His Spirit helping me, like Him I'll be.

Written by Lt. Darell Houseton
Newark Ironbound Corps

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Satisfaction (or Why can't I just be happy with what I have?)

I am a bit of a techie, and some, my family, would say I love gadgets. Last month, Apple made a valiant effort to make me want a new gadget - the iPad Air 2. I currently have an iPad 3, and it does what I need it to do, but after watching Apple's announcement, I seem to have trouble being satisfied with a working iPad 3. As a matter of fact, I have spent a significant amount of time trying to justify purchasing it. My latest internal rationale is that my wife's iPad 2 is having trouble maintaining adequate battery life, so I should give her my iPad 3 and buy a new one as a gesture of sacrifice and love. Now that I've written it down, it seems like an absurd and silly argument. If I was truly sacrificial I would buy her the new iPad, right? It's sad, but it seems that I let myself get bombarded with such temptations on a daily basis as there is always something new or improved that people tell me I just have to have. Will I buy a new iPad? Well, that's really a discussion I have to have with my wife, not the Internet.

Maybe you're struggling with the same issue that I am - being satisfied. When is enough, enough? When does what we need become the measure of our life as opposed to what we want? As we head into the retail sales frenzy of the holidays, perhaps it's time to look at the bigger issue of satisfaction.

The dictionary ( defines satisfaction as "an act of satisfying; fulfillment; gratification.; the state of being satisfied; contentment. and the cause or means of being satisfied."

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus gives us some insight as to how we can be satisfied. In talking to his disciples about worry, he also gives them a nugget about satisfaction when He says, "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:32-33 NASB. The "these things" that Jesus is speaking of are life's basics - clothes, food and shelter. Note that Jesus tells us if we seek first God's kingdom and righteousness, God will take care of these things. I think this is really the key to our satisfaction - seek God's kingdom and righteousness first!

Perhaps you'll join me in comparing wants to God's kingdom and righteousness. Apple (and every other company) may be trying to tell me I need better stuff, but what does it do for God's kingdom? When I look at it from that angle, my perspective begins to change, and I  start feeling satisfied with what I have. What about you? Does a change of perspective help you start to feel satisfied?

The Apostle Paul wrote the following to the church at Philippi - "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:10-13 NASB.

Will you join me in echoing Paul's testimony of satisfaction?

Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Round's On Me

When I was in college (GO KNIGHTS) my freshman year, I started the semester still 17 years old. On top of that, I didn’t have the rugged, Walker Texas Ranger looks that I have now. I was a baby-faced boy with braids weighing about 145-150lbs with my book bag on. So, it was no surprise that even after my 18th birthday, I still looked very much like a freshman…in high school.

I can remember attending an event where a plethora of drinks were made available since it took place off campus. I had never had an alcoholic beverage in my life, and I wasn’t going to start then (that’s an entirely different blog for another time). Even though I wasn’t planning on having any drinks, all the glasses, on the tables and elsewhere, were wine glasses! As the server approached, my voice which had recently been incarcerated in prepubescent prison, squeaked, “Can I get a cranberry juice?”

Harmless right?

Seemingly so. At least until I took a drink. No, it didn’t contain anything other than cranberry juice. However, someone did take a photo. I saw the photo and it looked ok, so I figured I’d put it on my newly minted Facebook page.

Still harmless, right?

Well, I also ran track, and an athlete drinking (and getting caught) was a no no. It's a good thing I didn't. I came to find out that a wine glass, half filled with cranberry juice, doesn't always look like a glass half filled with cranberry juice!

As you can tell, I didn't know much about this topic back then and still don't today, but like many, I've heard the lingo (yay movies!!!). Phrases like "Shaken not stirred," "On the rocks," or  "Straight, no chaser" are all common for the pros and James Bond characters.

Imagine coming before God and asking for a blessing, and then giving Him the recipe for it! I wonder how well that would go over.

"Lord, I didn’t ask for my blessings on the rocks. Take them back and bring me a new one."

"Keep your gifts, God, if they're going to be shaken or stirred"

Perhaps this is because we want our blessings straight with no work required. We want the gifts of God without doing our part. What is the root of this? Is it laziness? Is it unwillingness? I think it can be both of those things, but could it also be fear?

In Joshua 1:9, we read:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Sometimes, when God makes us an offer or promise, we fail to attain it or do our part because we are afraid to try, or we are afraid of failing. Other times, we don’t know what we are afraid of.

Just like with Joshua, God has also commanded us not to be afraid. He has done this, not because of our capabilities, but because of the promise he ends the verse with, "…the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

We don't don’t have to be afraid to do our part for God because He never intended for us to do it alone. All the blessings mentioned in Joshua 1:1-9 have "I" first, then "you." The work is initiated by God and also completed by Him. We just have to do our part! (He's there too!) 

Written by Lt. Darell Houseton
Newark Ironbound Corps

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Count Your Blessings

In preparation for a garage sale, I recently went through boxes stored in my basement. In one of those boxes, I came across my high school yearbooks. I took a moment to pause and look at my senior portrait. I reminisced a bit about that year and what has transpired since. 

The first thought I had was, "Wow, was I really that young?" I then started thinking about all the places I had been and things I had done since that photo was taken. I realized that while I had one idea of how my life would go, God had another.

I have continued to ponder this over the past few weeks and, while I shouldn't be, I am amazed at how good God's plan for my life has been. I have been blessed beyond measure with a wife who takes me for who I am without judgment and for three wonderful sons who are growing in their relationships with God. Don't get me wrong; I'm not always as positive about what's going on in my life as I am at the moment, but I cling to Exodus 15:2 (NASB) -

"The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
This is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will extol Him."

And, when times are especially tough, I remember the chorus of Song #396 in The Salvation Army Songbook ( -

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Perhaps, today, you are struggling with life and feeling overwhelmed. Why not pause, take a breath and count your blessings? It just may surprise you to see what God has done in your life!

Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Titus 1:2 

This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.

When I listened to Titus 1 today, this verse struck me. The word I kept hearing was consistent. Paul is laying out his introduction to who God is, what he is about, and what it means for us. Even before God created mankind, knowing we would fall, he wanted us to have eternal life. That sentiment has not changed; God is consistent.

When I strive for consistency, my attempts often fall short. Every October, I order a calendar refill for my written calendar, determined I will keep my task list, appointments and other items up to date. Usually, by February, I have totally abandoned it. It is not one of my gifts to stay on task. God sends people along the way to help us; this can be to encourage us in our gifts and what we are consistent with, or it can be to jump in and be consistent where I am not gifted. I am thankful for those people in my life. 

God wants good things for people. All people. He designed it that way. Celebrate where he has gifted you by being consistent with it, and ask Him to make you aware of those areas that need to be pared away. 

Written by Chip Kelly
Territorial Lay Leader
Development Bureau Director

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Promoted to Glory

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human need in His name without discrimination. Its structure is para-military. Its clergy are called officers; its members soldiers. Like many other military organizations, much of its terminology is unique to the organization. An example of this is the term, "Promoted to Glory."

Ranks of officers in The Salvation Army are based on years of service. One begins as a Lieutenant; after five years, an officer is "promoted" to the rank of Captain, and, after fifteen years, to the rank of Major. Increased responsibility in leadership may prompt the organization to raise officers to the leadership ranks of Lt.-Colonel, Colonel, and in some cases, Commissioner. Such a promotion would indicate the highest level in Salvation Army service, as the General, who leads The Salvation Army in 126 countries around the world, is elected by his or her peers

There is still another promotion for Salvation Army people, a "promotion to Glory!" This is the term used when a soldier or officer of The Salvation Army dies. It is based on the promises of Scripture which tell us: "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, and no mind has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." (I Cor. 2: 9); and the Apostle Paul’s witness which is also true for all followers of Christ: "There is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (II Timothy 4:8).  This final and special promotion is anticipated with joy.

In recent days, our society has been bombarded with the news of the death of two celebrities; Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. Facebook and Twitter have been overwhelmed with tributes to these two well-known Hollywood personalities. Their chosen paths in life has granted them fame and acclaim. Therefore, their deaths have caused such an overwhelming response.

Another death notice crossed my desk at about the same time as the newspapers and televisions were filling our eyes and ears with every detail of the lives of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. It was the report of a saintly gentleman, a Salvation Army soldier named Edward Gooding. He had lived 93 years and died quietly in his home in Boston, MA, as he had wanted. With grace and dignity he accepted his final promotion, his "promotion to Glory."

In his younger years, Ed Gooding had served as a foreman for the U.S. Navy, working in the Panama Canal Zone. Having accepted Christ as a young man, he migrated to Boston where he displayed great boldness in reaching out to men and women, boys and girls of the Roxbury section of the city with the Christian message.

"People may say that we are overzealous or aggressive," he explained, "but there is a certain responsibility that comes when we have been chosen as an instrument of God."

Gooding’s aggressive evangelism led to his establishment of Boy Scout, Cub Scout, Girl Guard and Sunbeam troops at the local Salvation Army church in Roxbury. He also formed a youth singing group and a brass band

During the turbulent 60's, Gooding and his wife joined the local chapter of the NAACP. They marched in civil rights demonstrations. Despite the prevailing political climate of that era, Gooding continued to connect with those around him. His personal conviction was evident in all his activities.

Again and again he would tell anyone who would listen: "In the final analysis, God is the answer. Only our love for one another will make a difference." Gooding’s gentle persuasion and his faithful witness brought countless Bostonians to new faith in Christ

On August 30, 2014, Edward Gooding was promoted to Glory from his home. There were no newspaper headlines to inform the world of his passing. No television programs were interrupted to tell us of his death. I read no comments on Facebook of Twitter. But I believe there was great rejoicing in Heaven as Edward Gooding marched through Heaven's gates to claim his well-earned reward.

I don't care if I never get the acclaim of Robin Williams or Joan Rivers at my demise. But I pray every day, that God will help me to be as faithful as Edward Gooding in discharging my responsibility of witnessing to the love of God. That's what will live on beyond my passing, and that's what will help me to hear the same greeting that Ed Gooding received at Heaven's gates: "Come, you who are blessed of my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matthew 25:33).

Written by Gloria Hohn
Asbury Park Corps

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Am With You Always

For my family, the end of summer has arrived with my sons heading back to school. This year is a bit different as my oldest is a High School Senior, and his new status has caused me to really shift my thinking over the past few weeks. My "little boy" is a young man who will soon be heading into the world to make his way and live out what he believes is God's plan for his life. My role is shifting from provider to advisor. As I look back, I start to wonder "Have I done everything I can to prepare him?",  "Will he be safe?" and "What can I do in the next 10 months to make sure he is ready?"

These questions and many others race through my mind almost daily, and as I contemplate them, I am drawn to a Scripture passage about being sent into the world - Matthew 28:19-20. In the New American Standard Bible, Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

This command was not just to the Disciples in the early 1st Century, but to us, His modern day disciples. When Matthew recorded the Great Commission, he not only gave us Jesus' directions but His promise to help us carry it out as well. This promise is a great comfort to me as I do my best to live out His will in my life, but it is also an example for me to follow with my son. I have let him know that no matter what he does or where he goes, I'll love him and do my best to be with him. Unlike the promise of constant presence we have from Jesus, my support may be through a phone call, email or social media, but it will be there nonetheless. As I reflect on my own transition to adulthood, I see how my father modeled this for me, giving me the freedom to make decisions but always being there for me in the good and bad. I only hope I can do half as well with my boy.

I take comfort in knowing that Jesus is with me and that He will be with my son as well. We live in a fallen world where anything can happen, but we need not fear as Jesus is with us, even to the end of the age. Perhaps it's time for each of us to take a moment and thank Jesus for keeping His promise to be with us, even when we choose not to be with Him.

Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Laboring for Christ and the Blessings that Emerge

Every Tuesday at our headquarters office, we have devotions from 11:30am-12:00pm. These very special 30 minutes are spent in prayer, worship and hearing a message from a fellow staff member or officer. I had the pleasure of speaking this morning. Hope this vlog (video blog) blesses you! If you prefer to read the transcript, it's below :)

-Elyse Jankowski, Community Relations Associate

Welcome back, everyone! Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. Though we just celebrated Labor Day, I know I’m not ready to say goodbye to summer, and it feels like the weather isn’t either. So, holding onto that sunny spirit, I’d like to share some of my experiences with The Salvation Army this summer. I know for me, it’s important to be reminded that our work here is good work that extends well beyond this building. Our work is for Jesus, and He is constantly behind the scenes, taking the little that we do as employees and officers and making a grand impact. This may seem like less of a devotion and more like story time, but I’ll bet you can see God’s hand in every account.

This summer, I was blessed to make several trips out to Camp Tecumseh. It’s always so much fun to see the kids just in their element, having a great time, wanting to pose for pictures. Their joy is contagious, and I could tell how much they valued the opportunity to be there. Those smiles are genuine, and we play a part in that.

Most recently, I went to Vets Camp last week. I remembered some of the veterans from last year, and some of them remembered me! They nicknamed me “Slim,” taught me how to play Spades, and we shared countless laughs. But not everything was fun and games. They told me stories of injustice, problems they’ve faced, hardships they’ve endured throughout their lifetimes that no one should. Perhaps it was the desire to finally release that pain which led eight veterans and family members to receive Christ at the altar the morning I was there. I can’t explain what it’s like to watch salvation happen. To witness lives transforming right in front of your eyes. I’ll never get tired of it.

My favorite day at camp this summer was one for the books. When I came back to DHQ the next day, I raved, “Forget being one of the best days as an employee of the Army. That was one of the best days of my life.” Three ladies from our Hurricane Sandy Recovery Group in Hazlet joined other woman at the Senior Lodge for a week of rest. They were three of the most incredible women I’ve ever met. As I interviewed them about how The Salvation Army has assisted them since Sandy, I nearly started to cry. I saw my grandmother in each one of them. She passed away suddenly in June and was a Hurricane Sandy survivor. My mom and I watched her fall into depression after the storm, having lost her home and several prized possessions. As the ladies from our group spoke, their emotions shifted from the heartbreak of the storm to the hope of their futures. They told of how wonderful it was to now have friends who understood them, to have a support system in the Army that they know can be counted on. I became so close to each woman over the course of the day that I decided to stay until nearly 8:00pm, just for fun. We went on the paddleboats, played shuffleboard, which my grandma excelled at, and they treated me like their own granddaughter. I was just as impacted by their beautiful spirits as they’ve been by The Salvation Army.

I also visited Corps and Service Units this summer. Red Bank’s Vacation Bible School was incredible. It was there that I met some fabulous volunteers, one who has volunteered for over 10 years and another for over 20! There must be something about The Salvation Army that keeps em coming back!

Sussex County’s Back to School distribution was great, as was Plainfield’s Christmas in July Bike Giveaway. Each drew families of all different sizes and needs, receiving tangible blessings.

And I could never forget my beloved Orange Corps, where I’ve been volunteering on Tuesday afternoons since January. The Summer Day Camp kids were different from the school year kids that I’ve grown so close to. I wondered if I’d be able to foster special relationships with a new group in a short amount of time. I’d say it was about three weeks before the hug brigade was in full force every time I walked through the door. The kids address the counselors and volunteers as Miss, so to them, I’m Miss Elyse. One day, precious Madison ran towards me in a fanatical greeting, shouting, “Mystery!” instead of Miss Elyse! I did not correct her.

It’s easy for me to get stuck in my own little world, or “the cave,” as I call my and Alex’s office. Sitting at my desk on the computer most days, while I’m doing good work, can leave me feeling a bit detached from whom I’m really doing it for. I value every trip I make to camp, a Corps or an event because I know I’ll come back with a story. One I can tell on our website or social media, one I can hold in my heart. I would encourage us all, whether we make similar trips or not, to remember that the spirit of The Salvation Army is holy. It’s extraordinary. On the day after Labor Day, let’s remember that we don’t have to go to work. We get to go to work for Him.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Not “To Get," but “Because”

God's acceptance is the power that liberates us from sin, not the reward for liberating ourselves. - JD Greear

I recently listened to a seminar on (I recommend this site to anyone wanting to obtain a great resource in ministry) by JD Greear, and he suggested a number of ideas. It was mostly things I agreed with but never had heard them articulated so well. I've always believed that the Gospel was inherently in opposition with the world because its source is not of this world. Meaning often, if not always, its teachings suggest we live and believe the opposite of what we might naturally do!

We say payback, the Gospel says love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. We say stay in the boat, the Gospel says step out!

Our thinking is different.

Consider the initial quote in this post. Too often, we consider the blessings of God as the goal and end result of a life well lived. When in reality, they are the basis for which our lives should be lived. Matthew 6:33 says to seek his righteousness first and 1 John says we ought to love because He first loved us. No longer let us think or see God's gifts as rewards at the end. Let us instead recognize them as the fuel injected into our spirits to power our lives thereafter!

God doesn't merely want our love and obedience. He wants us to desire to love and obey Him! Our relationship is offensive to God if it stems from coercion. He doesn’t want the love of trapped people; rather, He desires the love of the free who willingly submit themselves to Him and live for Him.

What does that look like? I believe this type of love and obedience looks unplanned. There's no scheme or hidden agenda. It is rooted in "because," not in "to get." Imagine if a child did their chores because it was one less thing their parents had to worry about, rather than to get an allowance. Now imagine if we applied this to our relationship with the Lord.

I’d like to challenge us all to live like we are accepted by God and not to get accepted by Him. Let's not pay God with our love, but let us love Him because of the price Jesus paid.

Dear Lord, you died and rose again because you loved us, not to get our allegiance. I pray that we may, in turn, live because we love you and not to get the acceptance already afforded to us by your great sacrifice.

Written by Lt. Darell Houseton
Newark Ironbound Corps