Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Living a Hope-Filled Life

Do you have that friend or family member in your life that God is always working things out for?  You know the type.  "I didn’t have money for the rent, and on the day it was due, money came in the mail" or "I was praying for a neighbor, and God worked such a miracle in his life."  I have a friend like that.  A friend who always has a God story to tell me.

My friend and I are very different.  I'm organized and logical and my friend is, well, not.  I used to think if she just planned better or made better decisions, God wouldn't need to intervene so often.  And while sometimes better planning on her part would eliminate some of the situations she finds herself in, there is something else at work here that I learned from her.

My friend expects to see God work.  She actually believes what the Bible says about trusting God to supply her needs, to listen to her concerns, to make things work out for God's plan, and then she finishes it off by giving God all the glory.  She lives a life of hope.

It's very difficult for us to grasp what hope actually means because the biblical and theological understanding of "hope" is far different than how we use this word today.  When we talk about "hope," we think about some sort of internal feeling, a wish that something we want to have happen will happen; or it won't happen whatever the case may be.

"I hope it doesn’t rain."
"I hope my sports team wins."
"I hope I can find a job."

But the hope of the Bible is very different than wishful thinking.  The Greek word for hope is "elpis" which means to expect or anticipate with pleasure.  This is an absolute, a guarantee without a doubt.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India was an amazing example of hope.  This nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India in 1950 ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying for 45 years. 

We have heard the stories and seen the pictures of her selfless caring for the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta.  After her death, the journals of Mother Teresa were published, and to the amazement of almost everyone, we learned that for fifty years – throughout her ministry in Calcutt
a – she wrote over and over again about experiencing a profound absence of God.

One might have imagined that this great saint would have had regular, intimate, mystical experiences of God.  After all, how could she have been so selfless in her devoted care for others without a steady sense of God's comforting presence?  How could she have possibly known what God wanted of her without a firm sense of divine guidance?  But not so, she felt abandoned by God, dry, empty
a fifty year dark night of the soul.

And yet, through it all, she kept going on.  Every day, patiently persevering, acting as if the God she couldn't see was actually in the midst of the darkness she felt.  Every day going to Mass, saying her prayers, living in community with her nuns, feeding the hungry, comforting the dying – day in, day out patiently persevering.  She wasn't relying on human hope.  If so, how long would she have lasted in her work?  She woke up every day relying on biblical hope.  The hope promised in the Bible.

What a powerful example of what hope is all about:  Living as if God is present even when He seems absent.

As Mother Teresa experienced and wrote about, most of the time we don't get answers.  We don't walk about every day with an abiding sense of God's presence.  In our difficult times, we may be led to believe that God is absent, unconcerned, or we just aren't tuned in to Him.

This is the message of the Gospel:  in the midst of the chaos, when God seems nowhere to be found, God is actually there.  As Julian of Norwich wrote – all is well, all will be well.  So have patience, for the kingdom of God is breaking through.

Our choice comes down to cynicism and despair or hope.  Hope is a decision we make; it is a choice; it is a lifestyle.  It's not a feeling, a state of mind, or a personality trait.  Hebrews 11:1 states "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."

Or to paraphrase it 
hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and watching  expecting the evidence change.

Will hope change my circumstances?  No.  But it will definitely change my attitude and actions.

When we live a life of biblical hope, we proclaim that even when God seems distant or invisible, even when we don't see God or when we feel alone or abandoned, we will act as if God is present.  We will get up every day and persevere.  We will hope.

So what does this hope look like?
We meet with other believers.
We serve the needs of others. 

We go out into our lives every day and live a life of compassion, treating others with dignity.
We keep praying.

Live this Christmas season and coming year with real, biblical hope and expectation.  Be hope in action, doing your part in building up the kingdom day in and day out.

Choose to be hope-filled, with a hope rooted in faith.  Hope that is patiently persevering – living life as if God is truly present and abiding even when it may seem otherwise.

One last thing.  The friend I spoke of earlier, it's one of those interesting things in life. 

Her name is Hope.

Written by Patty Craft
Grants Manager, The Salvation Army New Jersey Division

Friday, December 11, 2015


Some friends stay close even when life moves us away from each other.  But the vast majority of people in our everyday lives fall away if work or family takes us to a new location.  They exist only in our memories as we move through life.  But this age of technology we live in keeps us connected to those marginal friends in ways never experienced before.  An email I received from a friend this week brought me news of a lady in a church I served at as Associate Pastor a number of years ago.  As I wrote her a note of encouragement, I was reminded of a conversation we had one Sunday morning before church.

Early one morning, I was at the door when she arrived for Sunday service; a nice lady who had lived a hard life. The personal hardships in her life could guide her mood into a grumpy or unhappy state. Her physical disabilities limited her actions and tired her mind and body.  Her German ethnicity could come across to Americans as harsh or cold at times.  While our conversations were pleasant, I often left feeling sadness over her circumstances.  But this one morning she took me completely by surprise.

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I had no idea if she spent the holiday with family or friends, or if it was like any other solitary day for her.  When I asked how her Thanksgiving was, she smiled a big smile and with a twinkle in her eye, she simply said, "Blessed."  What could have happened around her complicated life that moved her so?  Our time together ended quickly as I was called away to other responsibilities.  I was unable to learn the secret behind her smile.  I do know that nothing had changed about her daily life or physical abilities.  Nothing was different about her, except her attitude.

Had she been invited to a family celebration over the weekend?  Was the care and attention given to her something she had long forgotten or never even experienced before?  Did she experience Jesus because others made space for her in their lives?  For the first time I left with a warm feeling inside.  Someone or something blessed her.  Now, she had passed this blessing on to me.

I once worked with a woman with twin teenage boys.  In the afternoons, I would sometimes overhear her on the phone with one of them.  It would be a check-in before they went on to after school activities.  She would often end her conversation with them by reminding them to "be a blessing" in whatever they were doing. I imagined them rolling their eyes on the other end of the line -- the weird thing Mom always says.  But I found it a wonderful thought.  What if we kept that thought closer to the front of our minds?

It makes me ask, "Have I done anything to change someone’s attitude?  Could I be the cause of someone feeling blessed today?"

Can I speak positive words about a friend to someone else?
Can I go out of my way to assist someone?
Can my family experience blessings from me instead of the remnants of my tiring day?

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says "Remember this -- a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop.  But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You must each decide in your heart how much to give.  And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.  For God loves a person who gives cheerfully."

We typically use these verses in reference to money.  But it can also be applied to how we spend our time and interact with each other. Are we generous with our praise, our time, our concern?  There is a saying, "Spend kindness like it is money and pretend you are a billionaire."  Think of ways you can spend kindness on someone.  A way you can be a blessing to friends or strangers.  Put it on your to do list every day.  And then go out and spend like you are a billionaire.  

Written by Patty Craft
Grants Manager, The Salvation Army New Jersey Division

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye!”

My wife recently began her Sunday Message with the following quote from William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony:

"Inasmuch as the great father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn,  wheat, peas, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as has protected us from the raids of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time on Thursday November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Plymouth rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings."

As a native of the heart of New England – Old Orchard Beach, Maine is my Salvation Army home – Bradford's words resonate with me.  The landscape of my personal past includes memories of hard-working truck vegetable farmers, clam diggers and fishermen.  The summer people were my savages both wreaking havoc and providing sustenance for us local Mainers!  I was always glad to see them go back to New York and New Jersey so life could return to normal. 

The Maine I grew up in also could be a harsh and isolated place at certain times.  Winters and slow springs hearkened back to Pilgrim times, though not nearly so difficult even during old fashioned nor’eastah storms.  I remember bleak times like November of 1963.  JFK's assassination felt like the beginning of the end as I knew.  And, there have been times of great ecstasy like Ted Williams 521st home run and when the Sox finally won the World Series.

Bradford's call to worship on that Thanksgiving calls up in me something more foundational than any other memory.  My grampa's simple prayer before the 40 or so of us became the stuffed turkeys was perhaps the most poignant preachment I've ever heard.  What he said escapes me after all these years.  But, his face chiseled by the great depression, loss of his first wife, and so much more that I never knew about shaped him into one of the greatest men I ever knew.  Grampa lived by two life principles that he pounded in to me:  "God is my boss!" and "When you quit, you’re done."

These are two pretty good principles to consider this Thanksgiving as we live in a world full of turmoil and trouble.  King David was in a life-long life and death struggle when he wrote Psalm 24 which begins:  "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein." 

We'll ponder our lives, our situation, our world at some point during this feast time.  Whilst making the decision whether or not to put a second dollop of whipped cream on the pumpkin pie, it might do to consider Bradford's call to worship Him who is Creator, Preserver, and Governor.  And, David's call to be a holy people with holy hands in his great paean of praise to the Lord of Hosts in Psalm 24 may well be our best ensign as we enter the holiday season. 

Written by Major Carl E. Carvill, D.Min.
Asbury Park Corps

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Welcome the Prince of Peace

The door opened ajar, and in came my daughter, sounding vulnerable, seeking protection, complaining of a bad dream. My natural response was to have her join me in bed, until the reality that she is no longer a tot set in. Dark still, I suggested we move to the living room couch, where we could lounge out in more comfort. As we made our way through the darkness, I asked her to quietly share her bad dream with me. It had been a long while since she last had one. 

Though I am not a decipherer of dreams, I can sometimes guess certain meanings or figure out what the overall meaning may be. At the very least, it certainly must be therapeutic to discuss the bad and shed some light on it. She proceeded to share vividly, using lots of detail and color, and I discovered she was right to be scared. Her dream took place at school, after a school trip. You know, school, that institution that is supposed to feel safe. With all of the current and not so current events, it does not surprise me. I still dream about school myself, but the worse occurrence is missing a deadline or realizing I had been gone for some time and returning to a quiz (seems laughable even as I type it). That is as bad as my dreams about school get.

As she carried on with the details that seemed like a plot of a thriller, she finally came to the culminating point where she woke up frightened, confused and seeking refuge where she feels comfort and protection: by my side. Since I figured we still could get some sleep until sunrise, I gave my "review" of her dream with a "thumbs down" and proceeded to do what I know to work best: PRAY. 

Certainly, our children must be feeling afraid with all the uncertainty in the news. I did mention she is no longer a toddler; otherwise I would not even expose her to the news. However, she is a teenager as of earlier this year, so current events are discussed in the classroom, without the added benefit of assurance that all will turn out right. Even as parents, we cannot give our children that guarantee; after all, we do not even have the answers in times of tragedy, political unrest, natural disasters, etc. But as Christians, we do have to guide them to prayer and to connect with Christ.

"The LORD will keep you from all harm-- he will watch over your life." (Psalm 121, NIV) I told her that the word “peace” will have even more meaning this Christmas, since it is something we collectively need to ask for in prayer. I pray that the Prince of Peace become known to all, that His message of light and love will prevail. That true good will triumph over evil and that humanity will seek to be humane. I pray that the innocent will not continue to pay with their lives; that our leaders will be enlightened and choose their actions wisely; and that those seeking to do harm, will stop in their tracks and discover God in all His glory. Join me in prayer.

Written by Jesabel Cruz
Office Manager and Case Worker, Red Bank Corps

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants

Genesis 32:31 (NIV) - The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

One of the most epic battles in the Bible I believe happened between Jacob and God. You can read the full story in Chapter 32 in Genesis.

During this confrontation, Jacob was struck by a "man" in the hip, and from there on, Jacob could not walk normally; his ability to run was compromised. Jacob, a man that had been running from trouble all his life, was no longer capable of moving with freedom because of the pain caused by this injury. I laughed while I read this story, because it has so many similarities to what happens to so many of us. Just as Jacob, we become very skillful at avoiding trouble; we have learned to run our way out of pain and discomfort. We are always looking for a shortcut to reach our goals faster, even if that means not being fully honest.

Jacob's life however, changed because of pain. Jacob told the "man" that he was not going to let him go unless he blessed him. During this encounter with this "man" Jacob was afraid of what was going to happen to him. He was afraid for his life and afraid for his family and his future. Jacob's desperation for answers placed him in a position where he was willing to risk even his own life in exchange for a blessing from God. Jacob had come to realize that running was not longer an option. He needed not a change in circumstances but a change in his heart; he needed to be transformed. And it took pain to do it.

Our bodies have been wonderfully made to sense when we're at risk of danger and to avoid pain. And the messages our body uses to let us know to avoid these dangers is pain. When something hurts, we make everything possible to keep safe that injured toe or whatever it is. We learn to hide feelings and emotions that cause us pain. If we feel insecure, we pretend we are brave. If we think we are weak, we become abusive. We learn to hide and to protect our weak areas by putting thick bandages on anything that hurts.

When something hurts, that pain pushes us to make adjustments to our daily routines. Likewise, the internal pain we suffer when others despise us, when people we love hurts us, when we are insulted, and even when we are suffering the consequences of our rebelliousness makes us want to change.

Pain is a messenger of God. It tells us when change is a must. Pain tells us when certain activities or behaviors will hurt us before our condition worsens. To not obey what our body or our heart is telling amounts to self-destruction.

Leprosy and some other diseases that may affect the ability of the body to feel pain are terrible because when pain disappears, with it disappears the concern for healing. These diseases that affects the nervous system make people slowly lose the ability to feel pain until they reach a point that they do not feel pain anymore. Because they no longer feel pain, they become neglectful of their infection.

When you break a leg or an arm and you don’t feel pain, those limbs will fuse again in a deformed way, becoming almost unrecognizable from what they looked before. Can you see the great importance of pain?

The pain that we despise is a messenger of God; it helps us to preserve our lives.

Let us not try to avoid pain, but rather than focusing on the pain, let us focus on the Healer. There will always be people who we will not be able to please under any circumstances. There will often be those who always have something negative to say about us. But when we are suffering pain for not following God's direction, it is time not for Band-Aids but for change and a decision to obey.

What hurts you? Have you been putting Band-Aids over deep wounds? Have you lost sensitivity to the voice of God? Have you have stopped listening to that loud voice of your spirit that longs for a deeper relationship with God?

If you feel a general sense of pain but can't identify the root of it, you need to present this pain to God and pray for healing. Many who have suffered through life have lost the ability to identify where it hurts, and they often feel like the living dead without purpose or desires. God can restore that ability to love again, to feel, to mourn. Do not despise the messenger (pain) - listen to what it wants to say.

Written by Lt. Giovanni E. Romero
Union City Corps

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Over the Columbus Day weekend, my wife and I made our way to Gettysburg to camp and explore the area. We enjoy history and to me, one of the fascinating features of Gettysburg is the monuments to all of the units that participated in the battle. In addition to the battlefield monuments, there are also some like the New York memorial (pictured) that are in the National Cemetery which honors those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" for their country. 

As we wandered, I began to look for names on the monuments that might, in some way, be related to me. On the Pennsylvania monument I found one - Vincent Odell (pictured).

My maternal grandmother's maiden name was O'dell and her family was from the East, so it is possible that we're related some how. This discovery caused me to pause and think about what those three days must have been like, and what the families who came after to mourn must have felt. As I considered that perhaps my relative had fought here, I had a newfound appreciation for the bravery and sacrifice of those who had been on this hallowed ground in the summer of 1863.

Since that weekend, I have also thought more about the bravery and sacrifice of another man, Jesus Christ. Much like many of those soldiers at Gettysburg who sacrificed themselves on the altar of freedom, Jesus sacrificed Himself to save people who didn't even know Him yet.

In John 3:17 NASB we are told "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

This verse is a promise from God that His Son died for each of us to be free and have a restored relationship with Him. Just like the monuments in Gettysburg which remind us of that battle, each Christian is a monument to the saving power of Jesus. One of my daily prayers is that my life is a monument that points people to the meaning of Jesus' sacrifice. If you want to be a monument, I encourage you to contact your local Salvation Army Officer or another minister and see how God wants to change your life and make you a monument to His mercy and grace.

Written by Richard Pease
Divisional Controller

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Does Revival Happen?

"Your grace still amazes me
Your love is still a mystery
Each day I fall on my knees

'Cause Your grace still amazes me"
-Philips, Craig, and Dean

Last week, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a wonderful conference at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary just outside of Boston.  I'm not normally a conference kind of guy.  I find them high in calories and low in "intellectual and business fiber."  The Pastor's conferences at GCTS are the exception.  Every minute on campus is an inspirational moment that presses me to be better at my craft and go deeper in my soul.  "The Surprising Work of God: Calling The Church to Spiritual Renewal" was no exception.  

Dr. Walter Kaiser (President Emeritus, GCTS) and Dr. Timothy Tennant wonderfully book-ended the conference with two brilliant lectures.  One might describe them as Kaiser making the case for revival and Tennant’s pressing the possibilities for how revival might happen in this generation.

Kaiser showed us that 2 Chronicles 7:14 is paradigmatic for revival in Ancient Israel and in our day.  He stated how revival occurs:

1. In a time of moral darkness, Biblical ethics have been overturned and morality and justice have been distorted.

2.  When a consecrated servant of God becomes an energizing stimulus.

3.  Bold preaching.

4.  Destruction of idols or and competitors to the Living God.

5.  A return to worship and adoration of the Lord God.

6.  Determination to separate oneself from sin.

7.  Exuberant joy.

"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)

Dr. Kaiser cited four conditions for revival to happen:

1.  A Call to Humble Ourselves

2.  A Call to Pray

3.  To Seek God’s Face

4. A Call to Return to the Lord.

And when the conditions are met, Kaiser reflected on five results of revival:

1.  Relevant to All People

2.  Jeremiah 18 – The Potter's House

3.  God's Forgiveness

4.  Begins with the nation of Israel and extends to all people

5.  The Bless on the People and Land who obey God's call.

Tennant built on Kaiser's foundation with particular emphasis on the globalized definition of God's (MY) people.  Out of space, but just want to share two ideas from Tennant:

First:  Forces of World Christian Movement (which include): Globalization, Immigration, Technology, New Church Planting movements.

Then he addressed three major paradigm shifts in Global Revitalization Movements.  He states that it is:  "Time for a new generation of Christians, committed to apostolic faith to declare minimalistic, reductionist Christianity a 'failed project.'"

Global emergence of Christian revitalization is helping the church regain confidence in the truth of the gospel.  Deeper ecumenism can move the church forward in the face of the challenges of our day

The upshot is that revival can happen again and again in our today.  But, we can't be satisfied with trying to provoke the Holy Spirit to action via 'same ol, same ol.'  Our Gospel must match the hour.  When it does, when we do, God is hovering just waiting to surprise us again. After all (his grace):

"It's deeper, it's wider
It's stronger, it's higher
It's deeper, it's wider
It's stronger, it's higher than anything my eyes can see!"

Written by Major Carl E. Carvill, D.Min.
Asbury Park Corps 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Afraid of Miracles

I was astounded when I read this story in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 4:1-5 and it says - But Moses protested again, "What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, "The Lord never appeared to you?" Then the Lord asked him, "What is that in your hand?" "A shepherd's staff," Moses replied. "Throw it down on the ground," the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. Then the Lord told him, "Reach out and grab its tail." So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd's staff in his hand. "Perform this sign," the Lord told him. "Then they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you."

I am so impressed about how often we pray to God for miracles, and then we easily become frightened when things begin to happen - and those things happening don’t look at all like the miracles we expected and prayed for.

Here was Moses, complaining before God about not having any assurances, or any proof of His existence to go before the Egyptians and speak on His behalf. Moses asks God, "What if they don’t believe me? What if they don’t listen to me? What if they say that you never appeared to me?" So what did God do? Well, He tried to satisfy Moses' concern, He asked him, "What is that in your hand?" Moses said, "a shepherd’s staff." And then, with the staff on the ground, God transformed it into a snake. The story says that Moses jumped back when he saw the snake; in some Spanish versions it reads that, "Moses ran away."

Here was Moses pleading for a miracle, pleading for help and understanding from God, and when God wanted to help him fulfill his mission, he became frightened by what he saw.

How often do we  do exactly the same? How often do we pray to God for miracles or for help in a particular situation, but soon after things appear to be actually getting worse (the snake), we begin to run. We are praying for money and we lose our jobs. We are praying for healing, and then another member of the family becomes ill. Rather than trying to see God at work in the circumstances, we quickly take off running to the neighbors' or to a lender or to share or sorrows with someone else. 

This is what often happens to us; God performs miracles in our daily lives, but we have problems accepting them as such, because we don't make any efforts to look beyond the appearance of things. We are too focused on our own needs and wants and miss the bigger picture. God is interested in using every opportunity as a teaching moment, as a life-changing lesson. How could we possibly think there's a miracle in being fired from a job, or being locked out of our apartment, or losing a close friend? Those are most likely not the miracles we are expecting, but they are part of a divine process that God will take us through on our way to victory. The road to the Promised Land runs through the desert.

Written by Lt. Giovanni E. Romero
Union City Corps

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is This Really Camden?

Carol Riley remembers the tears running down her face as she watched her 7-year-old grandson Aziz Goode swim for the first time. 

"The biggest thing [The Salvation Army's Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center] did for me besides keeping him in a safe place, was you taught my child how to swim," Riley said. "Aziz learned how to swim here. We came to watch him – his mother, his father and me – and all we did was cry. Aziz can swim, and then he also went scuba diving? Where are we? Is this really Camden?"

Seeing her grandson at all is a gift that Riley counts her blessings for every day. After what she has been through, seeing Aziz born, let alone seeing him grow up, seemed unlikely. Ten years ago, Riley suffered a stroke; and then another and another. All told, Riley has suffered five strokes over the course of the last decade. The days lost to hospital beds have been far too many to count. Yet whatever toll those strokes have taken from here physically, they have done nothing to disrupt her mentally or slow her hunger for her family to succeed. 

"This is something on my bucket list – to spend valued time with my grandchildren before I go to sleep," Riley said passionately. "But before I go to sleep, they are going to have to tie me down. Thanks to this place and Life of Lords – which is where I go for medical and is the reason I'm alive – between mentally here and physically there, I might be here for a while."

Riley became aware of what the Kroc Center had to offer shortly after its opening. Her nephew had been going through health problems and hoped the fitness components the building had to offer could help him become healthier. 

"He's lost fifty pounds since coming here," Riley said. "I knew I had to come check it out."

As summer approached, she also knew she had to find a way to get her grandson into the six-week summer camp offered at the Kroc Center. So with the help of Aziz's father, Riley made the financial investment necessary to ensure Aziz's summer would be one to remember.   

 "The most positive thing that I have seen here this summer is that children in Camden have somewhere to go," said Riley. "I have lived in Camden for over 50 years and used to sit and watch the fireman come here (the Kroc Center site which used to be a landfill) because the fire would be coming out of the ground. I've been here a long time. Children have somewhere to go now. You really don't know how many lives you have saved here. These kids come in here in droves. They love this place, and I like it too."

"I had to find somewhere for my grandson to go for the summer where I knew he could be safe,” Riley continued. There are so many children and young black males, and Hispanics and whites killed on these streets every day.”

Riley paused before speaking about two young men in their 20s who were killed in Camden the night before. 

"I don’t care what city or town you are in - things happen, and I don't want my child to be out there. I thank God for his blessings for allowing us to be here."

In addition to learning how to swim, Aziz has improved on his math skills thanks in small part to the café. Riley makes sure her grandson can count change before allowing him to order a meal.

Despite seeing so many tragic things in her 50-plus years living in Camden, Riley's outlook is one of extreme positivity. She believes things have made a serious stride in the right direction in recent years and that the Kroc Center is a major step in the right direction for the city's future. 

"I have friends that come here from Voorhees," she said with a raised brow. "That's interesting to me. People never wanted to come through (Camden) on the bus, but they come here to the Kroc Center because they always know they are safe. You see people walking here, you see people coming in buses, cabs. People are coming to this place. This place is awesome."

After being through so much the last 10 years, Riley has a true appreciation for life and the time she gets to spend with her family. Having a place where that could happen this summer was the ultimate gift.  

"I couldn't have anything better," she said. "Kids always ask me what I want for my birthday, and I always tell them 'love, peace and happiness.' And God knows this has been my love, peace and happiness to have my grandson with me."

Written by Eric Schwartz
Operations Assistant
The Salvation Army Kroc Center - Camden

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How to Say ‘No’ to Temptation

All of us are tempted to do the wrong thing. If we desire to live like Christ, then we must follow His example and say 'no' to temptation. But how do we do that? Is there a secret formula? Well, I do not know if it is secret, but I believe that there are things that we can do if we truly want to be like Jesus.

First, know your enemy 

If you want to win at sports, it is important that you know your opponent; strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, personnel etc. In the faith journey, it is crucial that we are aware that we have an enemy that is attempting to get us off of the narrow way. We learn from Jesus that He was able to say no to temptation because He knew his enemy.  

a. Satan is a liar. John 8:44, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language for he is a liar and the father of lies." Look what he tried to do to Jesus; "if you are the Son of God..." then later, "if you are the Son of God..." He tried to create uncertainty in the truth. He did the exact same thing to Eve and it worked - "Did God really say that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" - Genesis 3:1. See the lie and the attempt to deceive. This is his strategy, and when we know the enemy, then we can be on our guard.

b. He is out to steal, kill and destroy. John 10:10 - "the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, I have come that you may have life and have it to the full." When you realize that what you are being invited to do is going to destroy you – it is the enemy.  When you realize that what you are being invited to take is going to steal your joy, your reputation, your marriage etc. it is the enemy. 
c. When you know your enemy, you can resist the devil, and he will run away. James 4:7 says, "Submit to God, resist the devil and he will run away." Jesus did that in Luke 4 – Satan lied and said that Jesus could use His power for selfish purposes. Jesus saw through the lie and said no. Satan lied and attempted to give to Jesus what was not his to give (authority and splendor of the world). Jesus saw through this and said no. Then, Satan lied and said that Jesus could get followers by doing the spectacular. Jesus saw through this lie and knew that He could only get true followers if he went to the cross, so he said no.

Secondly, Know the Word

Please note what Jesus used as his weapon to say no to temptation. He used the Word.  Matthew verse 4, "it is written..." verse 7, "it is written...", verse 10, "it is written..." Because Jesus was well acquainted with the truth, He could spot any lie.
The way to expose a lie is to know the truth.  And spiritually, the truth we have is the Word.

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

When the temptation comes to gossip or lie, the word tells us, let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth. Or you shall not bear false witness (lie). Knowing the truth short-circuits the lie, and allows us to say no to the invitation to sin.

When the temptation comes to steal, we can use the word ‘you shall not steal’ and counteract the invitation to sin.

When the temptation comes to give in to the addiction, we can use the word, "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" or "do not become drunk," and remove the stinger, and make it powerless.

So, we see so far, we can say no to temptation like Jesus when we know the enemy and know the Word.  But we also need to:

Know the way out

Cheriann and I recently attended a movie at a theatre. Part of the announcements on the screen before the film began was to take note of where the exits were located. Look behind you, in front of you etc. This way, you will be armed with knowledge that could save your life in the event the lights go out, a fire starts or worse. Knowledge of the way out allows you to be successful in case of an emergency.

Jesus succeeded against the tempter because he knew the way out. And so can you. 

1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide you a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Did you catch it? When you are tempted, He will provide you a way out. 

You can feel when temptation comes at you – to use, to view pornography, to steal, to gossip, to not put in a full-days work, that a great darkness has come over you.  This is absolutely true.  But we are provided with a way out.

What is the way out?

It is a light - Psalm 119:105 - "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

2 Peter 1:19 - "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

It is a presence - Because He himself suffered when he was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. His very presence will guide us out of the temptation and into the safety of God's light.   

You can say 'no' to temptation if you will know your enemy, know the Word and know the way out, and then, in the end, good things will happen. James 1:12 - "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life."

Written by Major Kevin Stoops
Montclair Citadel