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 rightnow.com (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

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Summer of Adventure, A Lifetime of Memories

One of the lesser known programs of The Salvation Army is its residential camping program for children aged  6-12. There are eleven such camps in the Northeastern states. In New Jersey, our Camp Tecumseh is a beautiful 400 acre property nestled in the pastoral farmlands of western New Jersey, not far from the Delaware River. It offers a full array of traditional camp activities, such as swimming, boating, athletics, horse rides, arts & crafts and hiking. Its petting farm, with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits, give inner-city children an opportunity to discover the wonders of the animal world in a personal way, without cages and restrictions. All of these traditional activities are enjoyed in a Christian camp setting where the love of God and Christian ideals are modeled, taught, experienced and celebrated.

Camp Tecumseh is named after Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee Nation, who lived from 1768-1813. It is accredited by the American Camping Association and licensed by the State of New Jersey. The staff is a very diverse group; they come from across New Jersey, other parts of the United States and around the world. They are carefully chosen for their maturity, enthusiasm, compassion, love for children and dedication to making a difference in the lives of others.

At the conclusion of camp, one child said: "My counselors helped me make the right choices." Multiply this statement by the hundreds of children who enjoy the Camp Tecumseh experience each year, and The Salvation Army's camping program is impacting the future of the State of New Jersey. 

Chief Tecumseh would be pleased. History has recorded his words of wisdom to his people - words that challenge us, more than two hundred years later:

"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Love your live, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and its purpose the service of your people.
Show respect to all and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in I different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."
-Chief Tecumseh, 1768-1813

One little boy from the inner-city of Newark, exclaimed "Camp is the best place in the world!" That positive experience is the objective of all staff members for every child who arrives at camp.

The Salvation Army's ministry to suffering humanity is not just a special seasonal project, identified by the famous "Red Kettle." It is true that ”Need knows no Season” and for the disadvantaged children in New Jersey, Camp Tecumseh is a special week that gives memories to last a lifetime.

Jesus said: "Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children!" (Matthew 19:14)

For more information on Camp Tecumseh, visit http://www.camptecumseh.com, or to donate, visit http://www.salvationarmynj.org/donate

Written by Gloria Hohn
Asbury Park Corps

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Keeping Connected

Recently, my family decided to switch cell phone carriers in an effort to reduce our monthly cost. A result of this change has been a different level of connectivity for my smart phone. Most of the time, I don't notice a difference, but there have been occasions where I have wanted to check Facebook or post a photo to Instagram only to be stymied by a lack of network coverage. Initially, I was frustrated by this; however, I recently had an epiphany – whenever this has happened, I've been with my family, and the lack of coverage caused me to actually talk to my wife and kids rather than connect with them through social media. Needless to say, this has been a pleasant by-product of the change that I don’t want to give up.

As well as improving the connection to my family, I have also been reminded that I need to improve my connection with God, too. I recently reread 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 


"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (NASB)

and I had a renewed sense of what the Apostle Paul was saying. Prayer, as I see it, is communication with God, and Paul seems to be saying that we should be in constant communication with the Lord. There are so many benefits to maintaining this connectivity that I don't have the time to record them all, but here are a few that I see:

1.    There is a sense of peace that comes from telling the Lord how we feel.

2.    There is a sense of protection that comes from sharing our temptations with the Lord.

3.    There is wisdom in asking the Lord's opinion when facing decisions.


How is your connection with God? If, like my smart phone, you are sometimes disconnected, I encourage you to improve your connectivity by praying without ceasing and strengthening your relationship with the Lord. Unlike my wireless provider, improved connectivity is not dependent on external factors like cell towers and antennas; instead it is wholly dependent on your willingness to reach out to the Lord and talk.


Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Commander

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Gail Burneyko

This month's Volunteer Spotlight is on Gail Burneyko! Gail has been a dedicated Salvation Army volunteer since Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. Right after the storm, Gail took a friend to a Salvation Army canteen in Union Beach for a cup of coffee. The rest is history! Gail jumped right in, helping our Emergency Disaster Services team serve meals over the next week.

“Having taught in Union Beach, I had become connected to so many students and their families,” said Gail. “Volunteering with The Salvation Army gave me the opportunity to give back to the people who had given me so much over the course of my career.”

Gail continued to volunteer as a Client Assistant at our Hazlet Emergency Assitance Center from February 2013 until June 2013. More recently, she has helped with food set-up and childcare, while also preparing to Chair this year’s Christmas Committee in Monmouth County. Gail will secure locations for Angel Trees and help coordinate the collection and distribution of gifts.

“The Salvation Army’s Christmas kettles and bell ringing have so much more meaning for me now,” said Gail. “I have seen first-hand amazing amount of assistance the Army provides to those in need in our local communities.”


Interested in volunteering with The Salvation Army? Apply today!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Minority Report

Risky Business…Top Gun…Rain Man…Mission Impossible…The Last Samurai…Collateral

What do all these gems have in common? They all star our favorite couch jumper, Tom Cruise! Despite some of his more public shenanigans, he has regularly delivered on the big screen. In 2002, the film Minority Report was released. In short, of the three Pre-Cogs (future seers), the movie's revelation depended upon the report of one over what was reported by the other two. This minority report was the evidence needed for Cruise's character to topple the film's antagonist.

In Ecclesiastes 1:9 it states, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." This holds true again. In the book of Numbers, we find evidence of perhaps the earliest inspiration for a minority report:

Numbers 13:26-30:
 

They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan." Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

Caleb and Joshua had come back to report to Moses and Aaron what they had seen in the land they had been sent to explore. Before they spoke, the other ten explores had the stage, and they started off pretty well. "...it does flow with milk and honey!" they reported. 


Unfortunately, as they continued, their joy was replaced with fear, and their words reflected their terrible thoughts. "…the people who live there are powerful…cities are fortified and very large." They saw the fruits of God's compassion, but only recognized the obstacles of the enemy.

It was brave Caleb who dared to interrupt. He silenced the people and courageously uttered that the Israelites should take up the land, because with God's support, he was certain that the task could be accomplished. His wasn't the popular opinion. His report wasn’t supported by the majority of the explorers. Ten of the twelve reported with shallow fear, whilst Caleb and Joshua reported from the depths of faith. They knew that for God, five to one was still great odds in favor of the almighty!

Often, we believe that if enough people agree on something then odds are it is right. In reality, often times when enough people agree on something, then there are just a lot of wrong people!

Dear Lord, in the multitude of ignorance let us hear your truth!


Written by Lt. Darell Houseton
Newark Ironbound Corps

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Lesson in Trust – the Story of the Bees

Summertime always reminds of one of the great lessons of trusting that my young son taught me.  Erik was afraid of bees - the sight of bees would put wings on his feet, and he would be "gone in a flash."

Erik also liked to draw, and one day, a friend gave Erik a sketch pad.  When the doorbell rang unexpectedly one afternoon and I heard my husband welcome some friends, I scurried through the apartment, picking up stray items, including Erik's sketch pad, and stashed them somewhere so they would not be noticed.

That evening, when Erik asked for his sketch pad, I could not remember where I had put it. A quick search failed to reveal the hiding place, and I promised Erik I would find it the next day.  I had no better luck in remembering the next day or the day after that. In my haste I had hidden it well.  After family devotions that evening, Erik and I prayed together that God would help Mommy remember where she had put his sketch pad.  Upon entering my study that evening, I noticed that the sketch pad was stuck between some important papers on my desk.  An elated Erik and his Mom, together, thanked God for his aid in finding the missing pad.

The next day, as Erik and I were walking together outside, the familiar tunes from the ice cream truck that visited the neighborhood daily caught our attention. Supper was finished, and here came the ice cream truck.  One of the few things that Erik liked better than drawing was the joy of eating a good ice cream cone. So we stopped, purchased our treats, and continued our walk.

Sure enough, along came a bee or two to buzz around the sweet treat. This time, instead of taking off swiftly, Erik stopped, bowed his head, and prayed: "Dear God, please keep the bees away from my ice cream cone.  Amen."  Then he continued on our walk, absolutely convinced that a God who could find his sketch pad, would also keep the bees away from his ice cream cone.  And God did!

Jesus told his followers, "Don’t worry about your life. Look at the birds, see the beauty of my creation, see how my Father cares for it all – you're worth far more to Him than that. So don’t worry, but seek God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness first, and God will take care of all your needs." (Matthew 6:33).

Erik had already learned who to trust. In my heart, I prayed: "Lord, thank you for the lesson Erik is teaching me.  All our concerns matter to you, and you are totally trustworthy."  May we all be reminded of that truth daily.

Written by Gloria Hohn
Asbury Park Corps

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Even If He Doesn't

Men of Commitment.

That was the theme of Men's Camp 2014. To be willing to commit is essential in walking with Christ. We have to either be all in or all out. We learned that God can and will use people of contribution, but he desires people of commitment.

Commitment is daunting.

Commitment is difficult.

Commitment is necessary.
 

Commitment can be daunting because, well, forever is a mighty long time! The concept of always can be frightening. It can be said that we fear change, but I think permanence can be just as frightening. The pressure to never waiver may be suffocating. The fear of failure can make escape seem like the best available option.

If commitment was easy, it would be called something else. Its basic meaning is to serve. To serve is work, so by its very nature, commitment is laborious. It's easy to be committed when things are going smoothly.


I read a quote that said something along the lines of, "Those who think the devil is weak have never tried resisting him." How committed are we when the going gets tough? We need to be through and through people. Whether up or down, sunshine or rain, good or bad, we need to be committed. In Daniel 3:16-18, we find a familiar example of this for better or for worse commitment.
 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

How many of us can look into the face of the enemy and declare that we will be delivered from our current strife, but even if we aren't, our faith wont waiver? Three young men taught us that commitment is not reliant on immediate deliverance or lack of storms in life, rather on the faith to endure even if deliverance seems impossible or far off.

As daunting and difficult as it can be, commitment is necessary. Without it, we are like the chaff in Psalm 1:4 that is easily blown away. Commitment isn't fleeting. It's the product of faith and effort.


Written by Lt. Darell Houston
Newark Ironbound Corps

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jack's Back!

I must confess, I am a 24 addict. It took me a few years to get into 24, but once I started watching it on Netflix, I was hooked. I don’t know if it's the iconic ticking clock or the grittiness of the story, but I can't seem to get enough of Jack Bauer.

And I’m not alone, as the latest ratings show that I was joined by more than 8 million other viewers during the two hour 24: Live Another Day premiere on May 5th. My Monday nights now revolve around what is happening on Fox at 9:00PM, as I don’t want to be left out of the conversation on Tuesday. I need to know how Jack will, once again, save the world from evil terrorists who have no problem making innocent people suffer in an effort to right perceived wrongs.

As I sit in front of my TV mesmerized by the real time activity, I start to identify with Jack and his desire to protect others, even if it means sacrificing himself physically and emotionally. I think this is what makes Jack (and 24) so engaging – the idea that people want to see good prevail even if it means doing something wrong to get the job done. In Jack's case, he has no problem physically threatening a suspect, lying, or even non-fatally shooting a random protester in order to create a diversion. While this makes for good TV, it also reinforces a flawed belief about people – that we are inherently good.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Rome: “For Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23 NLT) You see, the truth is that people are not inherently good, and we don,t all want to do the right thing. If you need proof, just look at children. I know that my three sons have all, at one time or another, exhibited our sinful nature (and if you ask my parents, I did too). A simple question like, "Is your homework done?" will be met with a lie. Why? It's not as if I will punish them; I'll only insist that they get it done. Yet, if my boys want to do something else, they may choose to lie rather than do the assignment. This is our true human nature.

Thankfully, God knows us intimately and loves us limitlessly. He sent His son Jesus to die on a cross for our sin and rise again to conquer death so that we can have a restored relationship with God through our belief in His Son. He declares this clearly in John 3:16: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (NLT) and promises salvation in Romans 10:9: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (NLT)

While Jack Bauer may live another day on Fox, we have the opportunity to live every day through Christ. And while Jack is only around for a 12-episode special event, Jesus is here for eternity. Why not consider putting your life in the hands of the Saviour?

Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Friday, May 9, 2014

National Salvation Army Week: May 12-18, 2014

In 1865, William Booth founded The Salvation Army in London, addressing both the physical and spiritual needs of desperate individuals roaming the streets. Fifteen years later in 1880, The Salvation Army began its work in New Jersey. Since then, The Salvation Army New Jersey Division has provided humanitarian relief and spiritual guidance to millions of people across our great state.

The Salvation Army New Jersey Division demonstrates hope and healing in many ways. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol find a network of rehabilitation programs; children born into poverty discover camps and educational opportunities; and those who are lonely and forgotten receive friendly visits and gifts through the year. Our services result in shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry and relief for disaster survivors. The Salvation Army’s commitment to serve is demonstrated daily at our 28 Corps Community Centers, 101 Service Extension Units and through our unwavering support to Hurricane Sandy survivors over 18 months after the storm.

National Salvation Army Week is a time to thank our generous donors and volunteers who allow us to accomplish all that we do. Without your support, we would not be able to provide stellar programs and services statewide. We also thank the Township of Union, City of Newark, City of Camden and City of New Brunswick for issuing proclamations recognizing National Salvation Army Week.

All are welcome to join our National Salvation Army Week luncheon on Monday, May 12th at Ria Mar, 25 Whitehead Avenue in South River. The event will begin at 12:00PM and honor our retired senior volunteers. For tickets, please call New Brunswick Corps at 732-545-1477.

On Tuesday, May 13th, we will honor the women of our Hurricane Sandy Recovery Group in Hazlet. From 9:30AM to 2:30PM, the ladies will get their hair and nails done, and participate in a craft project at our 1444 Hazlet Pavilion office. Lunch will be provided as well as gift bags and photos to memorialize the day. From 3:00PM to 5:00PM, the group will enjoy desserts, coffee and tea at Drew’s Bayshore Bistro.

During this week, I encourage everyone to celebrate The Salvation Army’s 134 years in New Jersey, and join our mission to serve those in need.

Donald E. Berry, Major
Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army New Jersey Division

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Love from the Most Loving

I'm not sure how a four letter word is sufficient enough to express a pool of emotions conjuring in my heart. A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, but how many words can I use to express the numerous ways God has been there for me and never forsaken me?

Out of all the words going through my mind, only one becomes repetitive: Love, a simple but powerful four letter word. A word so small that made such a difference in my life. Love is what embraced me in the presence of God, and it is because of love that God has gifted me with his mercy. Love is God, and God is love, but one can never understand how meaningful this relation truly is until acknowledging who God is and what love is.

To me, God is purity and perfection. He is so GOOD and mighty that because of my worldly life, my sinful eyes would be extinguished in his mere presence. But somehow, he finds a way to bless me with his touch and words, so that I know he is there through my praises and battles that he fights beside me.


To me, God isn't just my guiding father and uplifting warrior, but he is that conscience I feel when I am full of guilt, and somehow, at the same time, I am still filled with a grand amount of indescribable love and compassion. Before I even knew I was going to sin, God had already forgiven me and embraced me with open arms, and that to me is love.

This is the same love that stopped the stones from slaughtering a woman guilty of adultery (John 7:53-8:11 NIV). He reminds us constantly that although we are sinners, his love toward us is pure UNCONDITIONAL love.

esus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,"


Have you really thought about how wonderful it is that we have a choice? God doesn't get in our face and tell us "you must" do one thing or another. He allows us to live the way that we do. Of course, it isn’t always the life he wants for us, but we should know that no matter what path we take, we can always turn around, and he will be there.

"He will never leave you nor forsake you" is what Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) kindly reminds us. He loves you, and he loves me, and he loves us all. All we have to do to end our own self-conflicting heartache is obey him. He tells us, as well as the adulterous woman, to "Go now and leave your life of sin." If we would just live for him and him alone, we could live a life of love and be the image of God we were created in.

Day after day within my relationship with God, I have found that his love is indeed four things I am able to understand within my own reasoning. To begin, his love is Ludicrous, and it's ludicrous because I see it to be foolish, insane, and unreasonable at times. Why? Because it is so out-right crazy to what extent God truly loves us. I cannot honestly say I would love someone who betrays me, cheats me and lies to me. I find it to be ludicrous to love someone like that... but that someone is me, and God loves me. Somehow, through all the mess in my heart and life, God loves me, and that to me is beautiful.

What is so significant about the woman whom committed adultery is that we are that woman. God tells us that no sin is greater than another. That is the significance of that story; we have all been in both positions. We have either thrown the stone or been the victim of the hit. BUT WE ARE ALL SINNERS. We forget that Gods love isn't just for us; it isn't just for me or you, but it's for us to share with the world.


 A song that convicted me of pointing fingers at everyone but myself is a song by Casting Crowns, "Jesus Friend of Sinners." One important phrase I love from this prayer song is "open my eyes to the world at the end of my pointing finger, let our hearts be lead by mercy." Although it may be ludicrous to love your enemy, it isn't impossible. We can all be more forgiving of those around us. I know I can.
 

Secondly, my next word is Optimism. God's love has allowed me to become more positive about the trials I face in life. I was reminded in a video posted by my friend, Stephany Bento, that God doesn't give us trials we cannot handle. Philippians 4:13 (NIV) says "I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

Steph reminded all her viewers that God "always has a hand in everything that happens in your life," and He is "never going to give you what you can’t handle - He knows what you can handle."

Her words couldn’t be truer, and when you understand his love, you will see that doors close not because God hates you, but because he opened a better one for you. He will never betray you.

God's love is so Varied. He shows us his love in more than a way or two. Allowing us to take another breath in the morning is by his loving grace, and the opportunity to be forgiven is by his loving mercy. We are able to get through our toughest days by his love and protection, and this list could go on forever. There is nothing that God does for us that isn't out of love and with love. his love is just that immense; everything that has to do with him deals with Love.
 

Last but not leas, God's love for us is Eager. Eager because he solely wants us to love him as he loves us and be the children he created us to be. I believe that whenever another sinner gives up his or her life to God, that he is enthusiastic about this exchange of love. He must be, because angels rejoice with him over our redemption. God is eager for us. He loves and hopes for us to be just as eager to love him as he is to love us, and the wonderful magical thing about this is that no matter how much we push him away and deny his love at times, he doesn’t give up. He continues to love us, accept us and be eager for us regardless of how we react to him.
 

The ongoing statement is that He loves us NO MATTER WHAT. He loves us with unconditional love. He loves us without a reason and his love, like his water of life, is never ending. God, who is an everlasting God, loves us with everlasting love, so therefore God is love, and love is God. That four letter word may just be more then enough to express His love after all.


Written by Elizabeth Ramirez
Newark Ironbound Corps